Metro's Bond Academy
The Industrial Development Board is considering issuing $50m in bonds to help elite all-boys school Montgomery Bell Academy refinance expanded athletic facilities.
Updated 2/16, 7:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, Metro’s Industrial Development Board will consider a proposal to issue $50m in bonds so that MBA can refinance recently expanded campus facilities, according to a document shared by board Vice-Chair Quin Segall. The surprise proposal came to the IDB on Friday from the Mayor's Office. Mayor John Cooper is an MBA parent three times over, with one son currently enrolled and two older sons who graduated in ‘18 and ‘20.
Financing through the city, which demands a substantial amount of work and coordination from Metro, gives borrowers a cheaper interest rate than commercial banks and usually goes towards projects with a clear public purpose, like upgrades to Vanderbilt Medical Center. These requests are typically handled by the Metro Health and Education Facilities Board. The IDB operates more closely with the Mayor’s Office’s Office of Economic Development.
In a Twitter thread Monday, Segall questioned why Metro would enter into this financing arrangement with an elite private school. “We should be focusing on issuing bonds for affordable housing, not private school sports,” tweeted Segall. She also shared the text of the resolution, which had not yet been made public.
The Board usually gets months of notice to consider similar resolutions. In this case, Metro would issue $50m in bonds to Pinnacle Bank, and loan the money to MBA under a separate agreement so that MBA can pull equity out of recently expanded campus facilities, according to an email from MBA board member Chris Whitson. Going through Metro allows MBA to access money at a far lower interest rate than seeking financing from a commercial bank.
The resolution specifically names MBA’s fitness center and weight room, football stadium, and lacrosse field as the proposed objects of refinancing. According to the document’s language, the $50m requested by MBA could be used for basically anything related to campus facilities.
Tuition will run families $31,900 in 2022-2023 at the all-boys secondary school, which has educated Nashville’s elite since its founding in 1866. Germantown firm Hastings Architecture features the school’s facilities on its website.
On Wednesday, the IDB will hold a public hearing about the resolution. Metro relies on counsel from law firm Bass, Berry & Sims regarding bond decisions. The same firm represents MBA.