City of Viroqua approves $3.8 million in borrowing for new fire station

VIROQUA, Wis. – At their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 26, the Viroqua City Council voted to move ahead with borrowing $3.875 million to help finance a new fire station that will have a total cost of around $9.9 million. The borrowing will be funded through the sale of bonds, or promissory notes, that will by handled by the city’s financial advisors Ehlers.

The city began pursuing a new fire station about two years ago after the
police department moved out of the building they shared with the fire department (an old beer
warehouse) on the end of Broadway Street. At that point the city and fire
department did a more thorough assessment of the building and began pursuing
grants to upgrade the current building or build new.

You can read our previous stories about the fire station including design and layout in our previous stories here.

At the end of 2022 the city was awarded a $5.25 though Senator Tammy
Baldwins office from the Congressionally Directed Spending process. That set in
motion the process of planning a new building that will be located on city
owned land just north of the Wild West Days grounds on Nelson Parkway. After
numerous variations of a plan the final plan came in at a cost of just under
$10 million. That left the city with the task of coming up with additional
funding to fill the $4.65 million gap.

Three townships, the town of Viroqua, along with Jefferson and Franklin
townships are partners with the city of Viroqua in providing fire services for
their residents. The townships and the city have agreements in place to share
equipment, training and personnel that are all run out of the Viroqua Fire
Station. Those three townships all agreed to chip $300,000 a piece for a total
of $900,000 to help fill the funding gap.

That left the city residents with $3.75 million left to borrow. As the chart
below shows there were some additional costs associated with the borrowing
including paying for the bond council and Ehlers services to handle the sale of
the bonds which brought the total sale to just over $3.8 million.

One of the potential sources of funding was removed from previous estimates
and that is the sale of the old fire station. That building had been previously
valued at $500,000 but City Administrator Nate Torres said it was removed
because the city has not yet decided if it would like to keep the building for
use by another department. Torres said removing the sale of that building from
the estimate allows the city time to decide which way they want to go with the
building, and if they decide to sell it the proceeds can always be applied to
the debt for the fire station at that time.

Sean Lentz with Ehlers presented the council with an estimate of what the overall sale of bonds will cost the city. As the chart below shows, Lentz used a conservative interest rate estimate of 4.2 percent and and underwriters discount of 1.25 percent, both of which could come in better than that with the actual sale.

As the chart below shows, payments on those bonds will be about $295,000 a year for 20 years, with an option to pay them off early after eight years. The city could also refinance the bonds if interest rates go down. Interest on the borrowing over the 20 years is a little over $1.9 million.

Lentz said the city is still only a little over 50 percent of its borrowing capacity even with the new debt. Lentz said given the number of big projects the city has taken on in the last five years and the amount of growth the city experienced, that is a normal amount of debt.

The chart below shows the total amount of debt payments the city will be paying each year for all of its projects combined.

Impact of the borrowing to real estate taxes is outlined in the chart below. Cost of the borrowing will ad an additional .84 cents for every $1,000 on property tax. Or about $211 a year for a $250,000 property. That breaks down to $212 a year.

The timeline below shows the steps in the process for the sale of the bonds that will be finalized on May 21.

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