News Column

Billionaire Koch's private Oxbridge school seeks tax-free bond issue

June 3, 2014

By Christine Stapleton, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.



June 03--Oxbridge Academy, the private high school founded by billionaire Bill Koch west of West Palm Beach, will ask the Palm Beach County Commission today (Tuesday) to issue a $35 million, mostly tax-exempt bond to help the school expand.

The school, where tuition costs $25,000 a year, intends to use the money to buy the 54.3-acre school site it now leases. The money would also be used to improve and expand the four buildings and sports venues on the campus.

The school would be responsible for paying off the debt principal and interest. Taxpayers would not be on the hook, even if the school defaults on the bonds.

The benefit to the school of the county issuing the bonds is that the vast majority will be tax-exempt, meaning that investors don't have to pay federal taxes on the dividends or any capital gains, which makes the bonds more attractive to investors.

An economic impact analysis conducted by county staff shows a positive impact of $59.2 million over five years, according to the documents. However, details of the financial benefits were not included.

Oxbridge is the latest of several private or charter schools and other non-profit organizations that have asked the county to issue such bonds. In 2005 G-Star School of the Arts became the first charter school to benefit from such bonds, when the county issued a $5 million bond so G-Star could purchase property and renovate and acquire equipment.

Other schools that received similar bonds include The King's Academy ($6 million), Palm Beach Day Academy ($12 million) and Bright Futures Academy ($10.5 million). In addition, several non-profit groups have also benefited from the bonds, including the Caron Foundation ($9.5 million), which provides substance abuse treatment.

The non-profit Gulfstream Goodwill Industries is seeking final approval of a $7 million bond issue today.

Oxbridge Academy, located on Military Trail north of Okeechobee Boulevard, opened as a college-prep high school in 2011. Tuition is $25,000 a year, according to the school's web site. Koch is listed as the school's director on its 2012 tax return. The school received $20.2 million in contributions that year and had net assets of $19 million.

The commission is scheduled to hear the school's request at 9:30 am.

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(c)2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)