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Montgomery Bell Academy asks for deal on $50M bond

Montgomery Bell Academy
Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 16, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A prestigious private school is requesting a deal from Metro to get better interest rates on a bond.

Montgomery Bell Academy recently updated its athletic facilities. The school is technically considered a nonprofit. That gives it the ability to ask for an exemption from Metro's Industrial Development Board to get a better deal.

Jackson Zeitlin, who went to MBA, had some strong feeling about it. He voiced his concerns at the board meeting Wednesday morning. "Blatant misuse of public trust, period," Zeitlin said.

He feels the request is tying up time and resources. "[It] does not represent what Nashville should be focusing on at this time,” Zeitlin said. “Work on improving their lacrosse fields? When multiple public schools don’t have adequate funding for teachers?"

MBA borrowed $100 million from Pinnacle Bank for the project. "We rebuilt the home side of the football stands," Montgomery Bell Academy's athletic director Mark Tips said.

Now, the school is trying to recoup some of the costs on a $50 million bond. Tips said they're not trying to take advantage of the system. "We’re doing the same thing that many other educations entities have done," Tips said.

Mayor John Cooper’s spokesperson said places like Ensworth and Harpeth Hall have applied for it in the past. The law allows it. In an email she said in part:

"MBA is not seeking any funds from the IDB or the Metro Government, and there is no subsidy, guaranty or recourse to the IDB or the Metro Government in connection with the bond issue. Neither the IDB nor the Metro Government will be responsible for any transaction costs."

However, board members like Quin Segall feel they should be focusing on untaxed bond approvals for things like affordable housing projects. "So for me, if we’re going to take the time to do something like this, we need to make sure it’s not taking away from our focus," Segall said.

In the meeting, they mentioned Century Farms, a development that recently went through the board for this deal.

Metro Council Member Freddie O'Connell was shocked by the request by MBA too. "As of now it seems like anyone can submit a $750 application fee, and never look back, if they get a favorable vote," O'Connell said.

O'Connell wonders if the policy on the board's policies should be reviewed. "I think it makes a lot more sense to say, 'We’re going to make this consistent with other markets,' from a peer city review," O'Connell said.

The board deferred the decision until at least the next meeting.

MBA tuition costs around $32,000 for the 2022 school year.