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Government pays its debts – that’s news!

Three cheers to the Ogle County Board for paying off its Judicial Center debt 10 years ahead of time, thus saving taxpayers $2.7 million in interest.

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

When dog bites man, that’s not news; when man bites dog, that’s news – at least, according to the old saying.

A modern twist might be: When the government goes into debt, that’s not news. When the government pays off its debt, that’s news.

At a debt retirement ceremony at last month’s meeting, Ogle County Board officials recognized that sentiment.

The county had owed more than $10 million on the Ogle County Judicial Center, which it built for $15 million and opened in 2005.

In November, the board agreed to pay off the balance due on the debt 10 years early. On Feb. 1, the last payment was made.

And 2 weeks ago, officials gleefully fed the loan documents through a shredder – a modern twist on burning the mortgage papers.

Former board Chairman Jerry Daws, who was invited to participate, said Ogle County deserved praise for its financial prudence.

“I don’t think you can find today a government agency that can pay off anything, let alone early,” Daws said.

Based on the daily news reports, Daws might be right.

Illinois state government is in dreadful financial shape.

Ditto the federal government, where sequestration has become the latest buzzword.

Even some local counties have trouble making ends meet.

Board Chairman Kim Gouker is correct to be pleased about the early retirement of the county’s debt. The board’s action is expected to save county taxpayers about $2.7 million in interest.

Are Ogle County leaders financial wizards?

Do they have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

What’s their secret?

No secret, really.

The board created a Long Range Planning Fund, designated the county’s share of landfill host fees to that fund (about $3 million a year), and agreed to spend that money on one-time-only, major expenses – such as a new building.

They resisted any temptation to raid the fund for other purposes.

So, money built up in the fund until the county had enough to repay its debt, and so it did.

Ahh. A government that borrows money for the right reasons, shepherds its resources, and pays its debts before it has to.

That’s not only news.

That’s commendable.

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