A Publication of The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham

Published January 2005

Observer Corps

Jefferson County Commission

The Jefferson County Commission stayed active during the holiday season. On December 20 the County completed the first phase of a $1.1 billion bond issue for schools, selling $650 million in bonds. The one-cent sales tax that went into effect January 1 will provide revenue for repayment. Fees for this initial sale are estimated at $5.7 million. The fees go to a group of underwriters, financial advisors, lawyers and other professionals. County commissioners selected the group of 22 participants in September without seeking bids or proposals. They range from $2.15 million to Raymond James, the lead underwriter, to $2,500 to Digital Assurance Corporation, which served as the disclosure agent. The same group will handle the second phase of the bond offering.

Two of the original underwriters, Sterne Agee & Leach and Bank of America, dropped out days before the offering. Their share of the fees was split between the remaining nine underwriters. Larry Langford, commission president, instructed the finance department to move County money in New York banks to Birmingham banks that supported the sale.

The bond money will be held in an escrow account until two pending lawsuits are settled. If the lawsuits are still active on 12/1/2006, the money will be returned to the buyers, with interest, plus premiums the county may have offered. Commissioner Collins voted against the 1% sales tax. When it passed Collins asked if the commission would consider using the funds when received rather than selling bonds to obtain the money in advance. Commissioners Langford, Smoot and Buckelew did not consider that a viable option.

In the January 4 commission meeting, Larry Langford wanted to donate county funds to the Red Cross for tsunami relief efforts. An employee attending the meeting explained that county funds had to be used to benefit county residents or operations. Langford responded that it would benefit county residents because "it will make us feel better."

On January 7 Governor Riley rejected a request from the Jefferson County Convention Complex to pledge $75 million from State funds to construct a domed stadium.

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