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Harford Co. refinances a portion of its debt

Harford County refinanced some of its debt yesterday in a move that is expected to save the county slightly more than $2 million, though officials said the sale was dampened by the recent upturn in bond market interest rates.

The sale, which County Executive James M. Harkins said last month could help jump-start the funding of a middle-high school complex, fell short of expectations as officials elected to pull some bonds from the sale at the last minute.

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"The interest rates were just not there," said county Treasurer James M. Jewell.

The county had hoped to save $3 million or more from its sale of about $53.2 million in general obligation bonds.

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The planned sale was to include bonds from 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997, Jewell said, but officials decided to remove the latter two years because the savings were not great enough to warrant the sale.

The auctioned 1992-1993 bonds, worth about $29.5 million, originally were financed in the 4 percent to 5 percent range, Jewell said.

The new interest rate is 3.053837 percent.

The savings on the refunding is about $2.1 million, and is broken down over four years.

In fiscal year 2004, the county will save $290,000; in fiscal year 2005, it will save $670,000; in 2006, $34,000; and in 2007, $1.1 million.

"I'm not as pleased as I would have been if we'd saved more money, but I'm not going to sneeze at 2 million bucks," said John J. O'Neill Jr., county director of administration.

Harkins said in June that he hoped the county could refinance perhaps $70 million in bonds and recoup $4.5 million in savings to put toward the Patterson Mill middle-high school complex, which is expected to cost about $40 million.


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