Burnet County taxpayers are starting out the new year with big savings. County Judge James Oakley informed the Commissioners Court at its Dec. 22 meeting that he authorized refinancing debt owed on the jail.
“The bottom line is it’s going to save a million bucks in interest,” Oakley said.
The county will save about $60,000 annually on interest for the remaining $11.4 million of the $14 million certificate of obligation without changing the maturity date of 2036. The jail was financed through a certificate of obligation, which does not require voter approval, in 2015.
Private investors originally spent $38.5 million to build the 587-bed facility, which opened in 2008. A private firm, LaSalle Southwest Correction, contracted with the county to handle jail operations.
In 2014, LaSalle officials informed Burnet County that it did not intend to renew its contract to manage the jail. That April, Burnet County took over daily operations. The next year, the county bought the facility, located at 900 County Lane, from the bond holders for about $14 million. Oakley explained that under the initial certificate, Burnet County couldn’t refinance the debt for the first five years.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery applauded county auditor Karin Smith for keeping an eye on the calendar and Oakley’s leadership in making the refinancing happen. Low interest rates made it a good time to refinance, Oakley added.
When the county originally issued the bonds, the interest rate was around 4 percent. It since dropped to about 1.8 percent when refinancing became an option.
Dockery added that county taxpayers always appreciate fiscal responsibility, especially when it saves them $1 million.