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Board seeks clarification on request by diocese

Published June 20. 2013 05:03PM

A private citizen appeared at the work session of the Schuylkill County Commissioners on Wednesday at the courthouse and inquired as to what capacity the commissioners have had to accomodate the request made by Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, which sought assistance from one of the county's authorities.

The question was asked by Attorney Edward M. Brennan, who sits on the Board of the Schuylkill County Industrial Development Authority (SCIDA), but appeared as a private citiazen.

The commissioners responded they are not the body to act on the issue as it is the duty of SCIDA. They said this is a refinancing request and there exists no need for a public hearing or formal approval by the county commissioners.

At its meeting last week SCIDA placed the request on hold.

In 1999, the Diocese of Allentown, together with the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authoirty (ACIDA), issued $22.8 million in variable rate revenue bonds.

These bonds, the diocese claims, are backed by an irrevocable letter of credit issued through Wells Fargo Bank. The proceeds of the bond issue were utlized to fund renovations at various diocese entitles, including Saint Jerome's School in Tamaqua, Cardinal Brennan High School in Ashland and Nativity BVM High School in Pottsville.

The diocese claims it currently owes $10 million on the bond issue, and has credit approval from National Penn Bank to refinance the remaining balance into a bank qualified tax-exempt loan.

To complete this transaction, under the laws of Pennsylvania, an authority, which resides in the five-county geographic footprint of the diocese (which is SCIDA), must enter into a loan agreement with the diocese (borrower) and the bank (purchaser of the bonds).

The diocese claims ACIDA cannot assist in this transaction due to the $10 million limitation and for this reason has turned to SCIDA for help.

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