NEW BUFFALO — Capitalizing on low interest rates and its excellent credit rating, the New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education voted to proceed in selling a $4 million 10-year bond to be used for capital improvements during its Jan. 25 meeting.

Funds from the bond sale will be used primarily to finance the construction of a STEAM building, upgrades to adjacent recreational facilities and Performing Arts Center upgrades according to Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie.

“We’re in pretty good shape financially. I’m very comfortable with that amount,” Leslie said.

The actual sale of the bond won’t occur for approximately six to eight weeks, according to Nate Watson, of PFM, the district’s bond consultants. He estimated the interest rate would be 1.5 percent, which he termed “incredibly low” and a reflection of the district’s “stellar” credit rating.

“Rates are so low it doesn’t really make any sense for us to finance it any other way,” said Business Manager Pano Arvanitis.

Following a presentation by Arvanitis, the board approved the amended 2020-21 general fund budget. He said most of the changes were due to COVID-related expenses covered by the unanticipated first round of federal pandemic money. The amended budget shows the increase of federal funds to $594,000, up from the budgeted $380,000.

Arvanitis said most of the increase went for operational expenses such as ionization units in the HVAC systems, personal protection devices and sanitation supplies and outdoor classroom expenses. He also said scholarship expenses were a little lower which he attributed to changes in college campus attendance due to COVID.

The board also approved a bid from Nesci Landscapes of $57,000 for the renovation of the middle/high school interior courtyard. The courtyard has seen increased used during the pandemic, according to Leslie. He noted that the design fee had been waived due to family members attending the district.

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