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Treasurer visits Valley to pitch borrowing plan

YOUNGSTOWN — A proposal from the Ohio Treasurer’s office to assist colleges and universities, hospitals and agriculture businesses when borrowing money will have a positive impact on the Mahoning Valley, local officials said.

Treasurer Robert Sprague led a discussion at Youngstown State University about Ohio Gains, a program that seeks to invest more of the state’s tax dollars by creating cost savings for Ohio-based businesses and institutions.

“We’re unlocking the power of the treasury,” Sprague said. “We’re always looking for ways we can serve Ohio institutions.”

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, is a chief sponsor of the bill to enact the reforms in the Legislature.

The proposal would reduce costs for the state’s public universities by allowing them to leverage their state share of instruction, an allocation formula based on student outcome, when issuing debt, and to hospitals by allow the state treasure to become the agency purchasing debt if investors can’t be found for capital project funding through a variable rate demand obligation, a borrowing tool used by large institutions.

John Luellen, market president for Mercy Health Youngstown, said his company would take advantage of the program.

“A dollar saved for us in managing our debt financing is a dollar we have for our capital infrastructure,” he said. “It’s a real opportunity for us to look at what we’re doing and help the community.”

YSU President Jim Tressel said: “We’ve been good stewards over the last 25 years with our money. We’re not overdoing our debt. You want to have the needs of the students in mind, and this will give us that opportunity.”

The reform proposal would also eliminate the cap of $150,000 annually on loans through the state’s Agricultural Linked Deposit program (Ag-Link), which provides operating costs through interest rate reductions on loans for the agriculture business.

Also, agricultural co-ops would be eligible borrowers under this program.

Tom Stocksdale, Farmers National Bank’s senior vice president, agricultural banking manager, called Sprague’s proposal “a win-win,” saying there is a demand for higher loan amounts from farmers.

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