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State Aid Leads to Lynn School’s Growth

Charter Gets Boost Via Credits, Bonds

June 30, 2011 : The Boston Globe, by John Laidler

A state agency has provided the key financing needed by a Lynn charter school for its project to construct a new middle and high school.

MassDevelopment provided two types of financing for KIPP Academy Lynn's $28.5 million project, which calls for construction of a 68,000-square-foot school on 5.5 acres next to High Rock Tower Park in Lynn's Highlands neighborhood.

One was the allocation of federal tax credits, which when purchased by an investor generated $7.35 million for the project. The other was the issuance of $17.5 million in tax-exempt and taxable bonds on behalf of the academy.

Josh Zoia, executive director of the school, called the state financing assistance crucial to the building plan, the remaining costs of which will be covered through private funds raised by the academy.

“The project would have been impossible without MassDevelopment,” he said. “They have been a great partner in the process.”

MassDevelopment's board approved the financing in March, and a closing on its various components took place May 3.

The academy broke ground on the project in March, prior to the financing being finalized. Zoia conceded there had been some risk in doing so, but he said the academy needed to get construction underway to meet a timetable that calls for the building to open in the summer of 2012. And he said KIPP had been “highly confident” the financing would become available.

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from local school committees. The Lynn academy is part of a nationwide network of 99 KIPP charter schools that share core principles and methods, including providing their mostly low-income students with a longer school day.

Founded in 2004, KIPP Academy Lynn currently operates a fifth- to eighth-grade middle school in 14,000 square feet of space leased from the Archdiocese of Boston in a Bessom Street building adjacent to the Holy Family Church.

The new building will allow the academy to expand through the addition of a ninth- to 12th-grade high school and increased enrollment in the middle school. At full capacity, the new building will house 750 students in grades 5-12.

The tax credits provided by MassDevelopment are from allocations received from the US Treasury under the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program, created by Congress in 2000 to spur investment in low-income communities. JP Morgan Chase purchased the tax credits for the Lynn project for $7.35 million, money the academy can apply directly to the project costs.

The Boston Private Bank & Trust Company purchased the $17.5 million in bonds, with participation by Citizens Bank and Boston Community Capital. MassDevelopment's issuance of tax-exempt bonds on behalf of organizations enables them to benefit from low interest rates.

While MassDevelopment has issued larger bonds for two other charter school projects in Worcester and Springfield, the Lynn project represents the largest financing the agency has provided for a charter school project combining New Market Tax Credits and bonds, according to agency spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese.

The new facility will include 32 classrooms, 16 specialty rooms, and a gymnasium.

© Copyright 2011 The Boston Globe.