CHICAGO - Columbus will seek a private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service for the $27 million of general obligation bonds it wants to sell on a tax-exempt basis to pay off a pension fund liability, a city official said yesterday.

Michelle Kelly-Underwood, executive assistant to Columbus' auditor, said the auditor's office will seek city council approval in the meantime to issue taxable variable-rate notes that could be converted to long-term, fixed-rate, or short-term, variable-rate tax-exempt obligations should the IRS rule the deal can be done on a tax-exempt basis.

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