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January 31, 2013

County trust pays down debt early

NORMAN — Commissioners report $6M excess money collected

Cleveland County commissioners were elated Wednesday to announce that about $6 million has been collected to pay off early some of the bonds issued for construction of the jail that was opened a year ago.

“This is excess” money, said Commissioner Rod Cleveland, who noted that the proceeds will be used to pay off construction bonds for the $26 million Cleveland County Detention Center.

Commissioners met as trustees of the Cleveland County Justice Authority to approve the payoff. Cleveland said commissioners will know in a week or so exactly how much of the sales taxes can be paid off early.

“We did exactly what we told the taxpayers that we would do,” Commissioner Rusty Sullivan said.

Commissioners had pledged that any excess funds collected through the countywide sales tax would be used to pay off the bonds early, which saves millions of dollars.

Last year, commissioners were able to pay an extra $7 million to retire bonds early.

In 2008, county voters approved a one-fourth cent sales tax for the next 20 years to generate revenue to pay off the bonds sold to build the detention center. The tax has been generating about $500,000 per month.

Meanwhile, commissioners are awaiting results of an Internal Revenue Service audit of the jail financing after questions were raised regarding how the $52 million in bond proceeds were used.

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