GMA’s Bricks and Mortar Financing Program Makes Purchase of Loganville City Hall Easy
When a building previously used as an elementary school went up for sale, the city of Loganville saw an opportunity. As the city’s population rapidly grew over the last few years, its current city hall was struggling to keep pace.
To move quickly, the city needed expertise about financing and its application to local governments. City officials called GMA, and the financing was handled through GMA’s Bricks and Mortar Financing Program.
In this interview City Manager Danny Roberts, former City Manager Bill Jones and Project Developer Robbie Schwartz talked about the need for financing, the process of using GMA, and why other cities in similar situations need to consider the association as their best financing option.
Why did Loganville move their city hall to what used to be an elementary school?
City leaders took a few factors into consideration. First, the city of Loganville is growing in population—and our government, charged with serving citizens, is growing along with it. Our current city hall located on Pecan Street just does not have any more available office space.
Second, our citizens must currently visit different government properties for different services. We eliminate that problem with the elementary school, which will allow us to move all our government services under one roof. That means our new city hall, once complete, will serve as a “one stop shop” for our citizens.
Finally, the elementary school is on a large tract of land in the heart of our city. We are currently in the process of redeveloping our Main Street and downtown area. So, with two of our event facilities next door to the elementary school campus, it made sense to have our new city hall become an anchor to our plans for the future of our downtown.
What were some of the financing challenges that accompanied this move?
Last year, our millage rate was 10.18 mills. Fifty years ago, it was 10 mills. And while Loganville has changed a lot in the past 50 years, it’s significantly changed in the past five years. As a city, we have limited the amount of our serviceable debt and try to be as fiscally conservative with our taxpayer money as possible. During the economic downturn, that meant squeezing everything we could out of every penny we collected. While we are growing again at a rapid pace, purchasing the old elementary school property was not something we had planned on doing.
So, perhaps the biggest financial challenge was making sure that if we made the decision to purchase the school, it could be done with as little impact to our taxpayers as possible. And it wasn’t just the loan amount for the purchase of the property. We needed to make sure we had money for the necessary renovation work required to transform large classrooms into smaller offices for our staff.
Please talk about some of the specific ways that GMA helped you finance this major project.
Over the years, we had heard about the Georgia Municipal Association’s Bricks and Mortar Financing Program, but this was the first opportunity we had to use it. The great thing about the program was being able to use GMA as a conduit with the banks to get the money at a great rate. One hundred percent of our financing was done through this GMA program. Plus, GMA made it easier for us to purchase this property that, because of how quickly the school system wanted to sell the property, really might not have been otherwise obtainable.
What were some results of the financing that most impressed you and benefited your city? What impressed me was that, through this program, GMA assembled all the necessary folks— bond counsel, attorneys, etc.—rather quickly. Despite GMA going through a very thorough process, with the legal process involving double- and triple checking to make sure there were no errors, it was a fairly simple process on our end.
For cities in a similar situation, what kind of advice would you give them? Why work with GMA rather than another financing option? I would suggest that any city following in our footsteps should use GMA for funding. Quite simply, they have experience dealing with banks and know what the needs are for local governments. GMA took a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Plus, using GMA takes the politics out of it. We have several banks here in Loganville and choosing one might have affected our relationship with the others.