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James L. White/Staff

Dan Lovelady with Little Rock-based First Security Finance (left) talks with current Valley Springs School Board president Chris Graddy prior to last week’s meeting. Graddy’s term expires this year and will be replaced by the winner of the March 3 school election.

VALLEY SPRINGS — The Valley Springs School Board voted last week to refinance bonded debt to save money, but board members also voted against complying with a Freedom of Information Act request from Bill Ray Lewis.

Dan Lovelady with Little Rock-based First Security Finance was at the meeting to explain the financing issue.

“It’s always nice to be someplace when you have good news,” Lovelady told board members.

Lovelady said the bond issue from August 2018 saw bonds sold at an interest rate of 3.61%, but interest rates have gone down and the company is projecting that refunding bonds now could see a rate in the neighborhood of 2.68%.

Based on that interest rate, the district would see net savings in interest of almost $724,000 over the life of the remaining bond issue. The bulk of savings would be realized in the first few years — about $660,000 in the first four years. So, if the board needs to refinance again after that the savings would already have been received. Lovelady said there are no restrictions placed on how the money could be spent or when it must be spent.

He went on to say that if interest rates aren’t low enough at the time of the sale, the deal won’t move forward and there will be no cost to the district.

The board voted unanimously to approve the proposal, as well as a three-year agreement with First Security Finance.

In other business, the board discussed the FOIA request from Lewis.

In November 2019, Lewis submitted a request to Superintendent Judy Green asking for the number of days, sick leave days, professional leave days and personal business leave days missed by all staff members, by name, for the 2017-2018, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.

Green eventually responded to Lewis’ request with attendance records for district staff, but did not identify any of them by name. District lawyer Jay Bequette wrote in a letter to Lewis that it was his opinion that identifying employees by name would be an invasion of privacy, and that no specific court cases were cited that would require such action from the district.

Lewis went to the board meeting Jan. 22 and asked that the board direct Green to comply with the request. He said an FOIA lawsuit would be filed against Green if the request wasn’t met. The board took no action that night.

Lewis submitted a letter to the board stating that if Green did not turn over the requested information to Lewis by noon Monday, March 2, that “appropriate litigation would be filed against her” in the applicable court.

When the issue came before the board last week, there was no discussion other than a unanimous board vote to deny the request on advice of the district’s lawyer.

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