Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bond Issuance

At the September 8, 2009 City Council meeting we voted on the issuance of nearly $14 million in bonds to pay for various capital projects within the City. This was an expected and scheduled vote and is the main instrument by which the City gets the resources necessary to take on construction/re-construction projects.

I voted "no" on the issuance of these bonds. Unfortunately, as often occurs in government, it was an all or nothing vote. 90% of the items that we would be taking on this debt to pay for I am supportive of - from bridge maintenance and repair to sidewalk, curb and gutter repairs to the much-needed renovations to the Market Building. These are infrastructural needs that our City has that affect the quality of life of our residents and downtown businesses, and the overall beauty and safety of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are what make Roanoke what it is and infrastructural repairs and upgrades are essential.

The concern I had and have was that there are projects contained within the bond issuance that have had 1) no decision made on and 2) that I do not believe are in the best fiscal interest of the taxpayers. An example would be Countryside. We have yet to decide what will happen to Countryside, so I did not think it appropriate and responsible to issue bonds to the tune of $2 million with no decision yet made. Roanokers already pay high taxes, and increasing this burden during the worst economic period in our nation's history, to me, is not the right decision. On top of that, the governor shared the news yesterday of the more than $1.35 billion in cuts the state is having to make because of revenue shortfalls.

In short, when issuing debt I believe we have to look at what is in the overall best interests of the entire City. And I do not believe that pushing the City over it's self-imposed 10% debt ceiling is responsible (which we are already up against). Money is money, and by including debt issuance for projects that I do not believe we can afford now in our City puts more of a burden on folks who are already feeling the pinch in this tough economy.

Like everyone else, we should live within our means and, just because we have the capacity to borrow money, doesn't mean we should.