What’s the SCORE? Federal Way’s pending exit from co-ownership of jail prompts changes

In early 2009, Auburn entered into an interlocal agreement with five other local cities to form and operate the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) in Des Moines for jail services.

Subsequently, SCORE issued $86 million in bonds to build the jail, with the owner cities of Auburn, Renton, Tukwila, Burien, SeaTac and Federal Way pledging their full faith and credit for the bonds issued, based on their relative “ownership” of the facility. Ownership, in turn, was to be predicated on the estimated, average number of inmates each city housed in the jail from day to day.

On Sept. 26, 2018, the city of Federal Way submitted a letter of intent to SCORE’s administrative board to withdraw its ownership status. The withdrawal, however, obligates Federal Way to issue bonds to pay off the 17 percent it still owes on the remaining debt.

On Monday evening, the Auburn City Council talked about a pending ordinance that will change the ILA in the following ways: by writing the city of Federal Way out as an owner city; by reallocating the ownership percentages among the remaining owner cities; and by authorizing an amount not to exceed $56,000,000 in principal to repay the remaining debt of the cities.

Critically, the revision would also removes the city of Des Moines as a host city, making it an owner.

Auburn’s ownership allocation increases from 31 percent to 34.94 percent with Federal Way’s withdrawal, said Jamie Thomas, financial director for the city of Auburn. And while this does mean that a larger ownership of the remaining debt service will fall on each city, Thomas said, the interest savings will actually result in a smaller, annual debt service obligation.

“While at first, I think, many of the member cities were a little concerned that Federal Way was choosing to opt out of being a partner of SCORE, I think ultimately, it will be a fiscal benefit for the city of Auburn. We wish Federal Way well, and we will continue to work with the remaining member cities.”

Renton will own the largest percentage of the debt, followed next by Auburn drops off considerably.

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