April 15, 2014 11:05:01 AM
Before a 1.1 mill tax increase for a capital improvement bond issue is set in stone, the city of Columbus must publish a notice of intent four times. City leaders could vote to issue the notices at the regularly scheduled council meeting today.
Councilmen held a special meeting March 31 to explore a $5 million bond for drainage, sidewalk and street repairs before holding a public hearing Thursday. The millage increase would be used over a 20-year period to pay back what the city borrows if it goes forward. If executed, the city would be on the hook for a combined yearly principal and interest payment of between $172,000 in the near future and $490,000 toward the end of the debt financing period in 2034. The city millage rate would be 41.23 instead of its current 40.13 rate. The estimated extra cost to a taxpayer with a property valued at $100,000 would be $11 a year.
The lack of a specific list of improvement projects that would be tackled and the usage of such a long-term financing plan for the upgrades drew the ire of some residents. Some said improvements made now would be needed again long before the debt would be paid off.
If 1,500 citizens sign a petition aimed at the matter, the decision on whether to go forward with the bond would be taken out of councilmens' hand and given to the public, which would vote on the matter.
Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem said while there's no argument that there are myriad infrastructural deficiencies that need addressing, the points the public brought up at the hearing should be contemplated before a firm decision is made.
"Right now, I don't know which way I'll be voting on the issue," he said. "The constituents on Thursday night raised a lot of valid concerns and issues. I would hope that we take those issues and concerns under consideration before we make a decision. I would hope that we take our time."
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said he understood the public hearing participants' concerns and noted that planning the specific improvement list is taking place now. Councilmen are working with the city's project managing firm, J5 Broaddus, to identify the most critical infrastructural deficiencies in each of their wards before going through the same process of identifying and listing the roads in greatest need of paving.
"This is all an ongoing process," Box said. "This resolution will be to vote to do it and then the resolution has to lay on the table for 30 days. We will have a plan and it will be a complete plan."
Also not clear is how much of the $5 million would be taken off the top between the interest rate on the loan, the fee for city engineering firm Neel-Schaffer to design all the upgrades and whether or not J5 Broaddus' typical 6 percent fee will be included. City bond consultant Steve Edds said the interest rate would be about 2 percent while Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer said a 4.85 percent fee was used for the engineering firm's service during the 2010-12 capital improvement cycle. If J5's 6 percent is added in, 12.85 percent, or $642,500 of the $5 million, would go to those three entities.
The council meets at 5 p.m. today at the Columbus Municipal Complex.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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