Cambria approves bond to consolidate SFU debt

EBENSBURG — Cambria County commissioners voted Thursday to approve a bond refinancing of up to $22.5 million for Saint Francis University, which is working to pay off construction and renovation projects.

The commissioners’ approval at the morning meeting was necessary because of the university’s tax-exempt status, said Marie Young, Saint Francis’

marketing director.

“Tax exempt bonds are issued through government authorities,” she said.

In this case, the nearly $2.5 million amount will cover the consolidation of several university debts, said Ronald F. Budash, Cambria County General Financing Authority’s secretary and treasurer.

Those debts, Young said, stem from a 2011 bond issue for the construction of the university’s new science center, as well as other renovations and expenses. The 70,000-square-foot science center was formally opened in 2013.

The consolidation includes a lower interest rate and provides a cost savings to the university, Budash said.

“This imposes no liability upon the … taxpayers of Cambria County,” he said.

County solicitor Bill Barbin said the same.

“You’re basically acting as the body … of Cambria County saying this is a worthwhile activity that is eligible for tax-exempt funds,” Barbin said.

Saint Francis is not the only benefactor of the bond issuance, Budash said. He suggested that the new building may have led to additional local jobs and increased enrollment.

“It’s a win-win situation for the county,” Budash said. “It’s a win-win situation for Saint Francis University.”

Commissioners’ President Tom Chernisky repeated that claim.

“It’s a win-win across the board,” he said.