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Roswell bond referendum a go with smaller project list
by Joan Durbin
jdurbin@neighbornewspapers.com
August 15, 2012 02:39 PM | 1077 views | 1 1 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roswell voters will decide in November if they want to borrow up to $14.7 million for capital improvement projects that include several improvements to one of the city’s most congested intersections.

That figure is down significantly from the $24 million in projects the city council had been considering as late as last week.

“We were not completely agreed as to a project list. A couple of the projects were still undefined,” said Councilman Rich Dippolito as he proposed paring down the dollar amount of a bond referendum. “They were conceptual ideas and I thought we were getting too far ahead of ourselves.” The council had to approve a call for a referendum on Monday night in order to meet the deadline for the November ballot.

Dippolito proposed the $14.7 million should be split into three categories: infrastructure; recreation, parks and cultural; and public safety. In the infrastructure category would be $8.7 million that would be earmarked for four improvement projects at the Holcomb Bridge Road/Ga. 400 interchange.

Replacing some grass ball fields with synthetic turf, a new pool and fitness room at the adult recreation center and multiuse trails on Eves Road and Holcomb Bridge Road would fall into the second “bucket,” which would have $4.5 million. Finally, building a new fire station to replace Station 4 would be funded with $1.5 million from the public safety category. Projects that were cut from the referendum are expansion of the Cultural Arts Center and a non-specific anchor economic development project.

Though the Cultural Arts Committee does have the beginnings of a plan for the center, some council members last week said they wanted more precise information.

Councilwoman Betty Price wasn’t totally happy with the smaller list.

“I’m sort of concerned a lot of items are wants, not needs,” she said. Price said she would have preferred some bond money for the Historic Gateway project that would, among other accomplishments, remove the reversible lanes on Atlanta Street.

But Dippolito noted that the Gateway project was still in the very early stages and would not qualify for the bond. Projects on the list would have to be “shovel ready” to meet the bank terms, he said.

According to the city’s finance director, Keith Lee, the cost of borrowing now is minimal enough that the municipal tax rate won’t be affected.

Roswell is poised to pay off existing bonds and retire that debt service, which is part of the current tax rate of 5.455 mills. Debt for a new bond could be folded into the existing tax rate.

Council members voted unanimously to put the $14.7 million bond question to voters in November.
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LEE fLECK
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August 17, 2012
There is an implied contract between citizens and a governing body with regard to a general obligation bond. When voters agree to tax themselves, they expect that when a bond is retired the tax should go away. But I am embarrassed to say not so in Roswell, because it is an axiom that once politicians get their hands on your money they will manipulate, deceive, and even lie to taxpayers to keep it.

When the Ga400 toll road was built the agreement was that the toll booths were to come down when the road was paid for. That reality has yet to be seen.

Routinely a municipal general obligation bond specifically spells out what its purpose is and legally all monies collected must be utilized within a specific period of time for the project spelled out by the bond and for that project only. Debt service monies cannot be rolled over for any other municipal “feel good” project.

Roswell property owners approved bonds for the purchase of park lands and transportation infrastructure improvements dating back to 1995. Those debts will be paid off by the end of next year. But instead of taxes going down, Mayor Wood and City Council intend to keep collecting some $6.3 million annually forever. The city’s toll booth is not coming down.

Now the reality is that the $14.7 million bond voters will decide on this November will only cost property owners $1.6 million annually and we will be paying on this debt for the next 10 years.

But here is the real eye opener.

The city will take in $6.3 million annually and only pay out $1.6 million each year, keeping the difference of $4.7 million to use as they see fit.

With this money, if Council wishes to invest in capital infrastructure improvements they can. If they want more bicycle races they can use your tax dollars to do so. If Council wants to use your tax dollars to cover the exorbitant operational costs for the new senior center swimming pool (one of the items on the bond) that only a select portion of the population will be allowed to take advantage of, they can do that also. If they want to take another annual retreat to Greenville or Chattanooga as they have done in the past, then away they go on our dime. If they want to increase the head count working at city hall or give a pay raise, like they did this year, they can use our tax dollars and do so. They can even put more red bricks in turn lanes on Highway 9 or paint and repaint green bicycle lines throughout the city. Because unlike a general obligation bond, there are no legal obligations relative to how the Mayor or City Council can use this $4.7 million annual windfall of taxpayer’s hard earned money, once they roll it over into day to day operations - AS THEY INTEND TO DO!

Roswell property owners, you will carry this burden. Mayor Wood stated emphatically during last Monday’s bond meeting that this is going to happen and I guarantee you that this will happen unless you speak up.

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