The City of Huntsville continues to spend taxpayer money to promote the passing of the 3 propositions. The City Council would like us to give them the ability to borrow up to $128 million with no accountability.
The latest information the city has released is “The City Connection” sent with our utility bills. They printed responses to our Frequently Asked Questions about the Huntsville Bond Election. I have included my own information as responses to these questions.
“How did the City arrive at the amounts of the bond propositions?”
The City of Huntsville hired an outside consultant for $1.5 Million to tell them what the biggest problems that could be paid for by debt, in the city were. Did we need a consultant to tell us that for $1.5 Million? Couldn’t we have just sent out e-mails to our employees to find out what they thought? The City spent 6 whole months reviewing the consultant’s findings to determine that we need to pull out $128 Million dollars in debt that will end up costing us $7 million dollars per year in interest and a potential of $210 Million over the life of the loans.
“How will the City pay the debt payments on the bonds if the bond propositions pass?”
The City of Huntsville is just now being released from debt that we are trapped under because of past decisions like this. Currently our city is paying $1.5 Million dollars toward debt service every year. How does the city intend to pay $7 Million dollars per year in interest without raising taxes? Those numbers just don’t add up.
“If the propositions pass, will there be continued communication about the status, cost, etc. of the approved propositions and the status of the projects approved?”
The City’s plan is to begin work on Proposition 3 as soon as we are free of past debt and can acquire new debt. Proposition 2 may not begin work until 2020 or 2021. A lot can happen in the next 4 or 5 years and someone could come up with a better solution to the Police and Fire Building issues. The City Council could also be completely changed to include responsible citizens who are leaders, are willing to speak up for the people of Huntsville and do not want to spend every current dollar and future dollar coming from the taxes we pay. The city says that, “the first phases (design) of Proposition 1 will likely begin in late 2017 or early 2018.” Why is that? It is because the City Council has already voted to use money set aside for the maintenance of MLK Jr. Blvd. to pay for the design of Proposition 1. Why? They need the design to go to the lender and justify the issuance of a loan/bond.
“When will the bonds be issued (money be borrowed) if the bond proposition(s) pass?”
The city states, “the plan is to complete the design on the project before the debt is issued.” Then, the city says, “new debt may be issued at the discretion of the City Council.” Do you want to give the City Council discretion with $128 Million of your hard earned tax money? I don’t.
“As for the building projects, wouldn’t it be cheaper and/or more cost effective to repair or renovate what we have?”
Let me ask you this. Would it be cheaper for you to tear down your existing home and build something newer, bigger and better, or to maintain, repair and remodel your house to make it work better for you? Exactly, initially maintaining, repairing and remodeling would be less costly. The problem is that the city never set aside the funds to maintain these facilities correctly. They have proven over and over again that they are not good managers of our tax funds here in Huntsville! Do not give them more money to mismanage.
“What happens if projects end up costing more than what the debt can pay for?”
What happens to our money once it is issued to the City? Is there anything that obligates the City Council to put the money specifically toward building these 3 projects? No, just them promising us. Can the City Council move this money around and spend it in other areas? There is nothing stipulated in the Propositions preventing them from spending the money however they want.
“How does the City know it will be able to issue debt and not raise taxes or utility rates?”
The City Council does not know this, they do not know what unforeseen expenses could come up in the future. They are saying what they think will convince us to pass the bond. They are providing us the least amount of information possible. If another facility needs to be replaced or rebuilt, or if a future City Council chooses to take on another project, within the next 30 years (which is how long these projects are expected to be used by us, because there will be no leftover money), then taxes will have to be raised!
“If the City ends up issuing too much debt, what happens to the excess funds?”
The City says “excess funds can be used to make principal and interest payments in future years”. TRANSLATION: It will be spent happily and willingly by the City Council because we will have forgotten about it by then.
“$128 Million? That seems like an awful lot. Are we taking on too much debt?”
Don’t forget. If you include the interest, the amount will be more like $338 Million.
The city says, “The decision about how much debt is appropriate is a matter of personal choice.” EXACTLY! Who’s choice? Your choice? No. My choice? No. The current City Council’s choice, many of whom have been on the council for 6 years or more, but refuse to take any responsibility for the lack of maintenance on these facilities and their wasteful use of funds. Examples include: 1. $500,000 for directional signs that look pretty, but are lacking information. 2. $1.5 Million for an independent study of what improvements Huntsville needs to make, the results being these 3 Bond Propositions. 3. Their recent decision at a City Council meeting to take money set aside for maintenance of MLK Jr. Blvd. (where all of the school buses drive up and down every day) and use it to pay for the design of the new City Hall Building. A decision already voted on and passed by the Council prior to the voters even voting on the propositions. Why have they set aside money for the design of the building already? Maybe because they can’t get started on the design, and get approved for the bond (very expensive loan) until they have a design and they know the actual proposed cost of the project, to be approved by the lender.
How can YOU resolve all of the Frequently Asked Questions by concerned citizens?
Vote “No” on all 3 Bond Propositions!