It might not have been what district officials were expecting, but Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson said he is happy that the school district taxpayers will save about $3 million through zero-interest bonds.

It might not have been what district officials were expecting, but Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson said he is happy that the school district taxpayers will save about $3 million through zero-interest bonds.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced late last month that dozens of school districts in Missouri received a combined $146.34 million in interest-free federal bonds to pay for construction projects. These projects were financed through bond issues approved by voters throughout the state. In Independence, voters approved an $85 million bond issue in November.

The interest-free bonds were Qualified School Construction Bonds awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Independence’s share was $5.9 million. That means a savings of $3 million in interest over the next 30 years.

“We were hoping for more,” Hinson said of the interest-free bonds. “But there were a number of school districts that approved bond issues in April, which was always an unknown for us. That reduced the amount of interest-free bonds we would get.”

During the bond issue campaign last fall, Hinson said he was hoping to receive as much as half of the $85 million in interest-free bonds. However, he said there was no way of knowing how many school districts would go for bond issues in either November or April. The more successful bond campaigns throughout the state, the less money available in interest-free bonds to any particular district.

As for the interest rate on the remaining bond funds, the school district will pay 1.9 percent interest rate on the 20-year life of the bonds.

In addition to Independence, other Kansas City area school districts received interest-free bonds through the federal program. These include Lee’s Summit, $6.4 million; Liberty, $4.6 million; North Platte, $2.2 million and Wellington Napoleon, $717, 959.

The Qualified School Construction Bond program absorbs the costs that would have otherwise been incurred by the school district for construction projects. This allows district to borrow funds without paying interest.

Funding from the Independence bond issue will go toward renovations and additions at numerous buildings including Luff, Thomas Hart Benton and Blackburn elementary schools as well as William Chrisman, Truman and Van Horn high schools. HVAC upgrades are being made to several western Independence schools including Fairmount, Sugar Creek and Three Trails and two new elementary schools will be constructed - one in eastern Independence and the other on the west side of the school district. A majority of the renovation projects have already been started and those that have not will begin the demolition phase later this summer.

Hinson said the possibility does exist for additional interest-free bonds, but there is no way to say how much, if any, until later in the year.

“If a school district does not follow through on their appropriation, then there is still the possibility that we would receive additional funding,” he said. “But right now, we are happy with what we received and that we will be saving our taxpayers money in the future.”