Columbus closer to 2008 bond package

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Columbus City Council is one step closer to placing $1.66 billion worth of bond issues on the Nov. 4 ballot.

At its July 2 meeting, council approved several resolutions of necessity regarding the 2008 Voted Bond Package.

Each resolution is a declaration that the separate ballot initiatives are necessary and gives council the authority to transmit the figures to the auditor. The auditor will then assign a millage amount to the issues and send the figures back to council.

Council is expected to approve the millage amounts at their next meeting, to be held July 14 at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 90 W. Broad St.

By passing the bond issues, voters will allow Columbus to borrow money through the sale of city bonds. Those borrowed funds will help finance capital projects over an extended period of time.

Those improvements include public utilities projects, water and sewer improvements, street and highway work and neighborhood projects. A portion of the money would also be invested in the private sector as a way to help bolster the economy and job force in Columbus.

According to City Auditor Hugh Dorian, voter approval would allow funds to be borrowed at a lower rate, potentially saving the city $28 million over the life of the bonds.

Dorian emphasized that the city has no intention of levying taxes to repay debts incurred from the borrowed funds.

"The ability to levy it gives us better rates," he said.

According to Dorian, the city has placed 82 bond issues before Columbus residents since the practice began in 1956. During that time, 76 issues have passed.

Dorian claims to know the reason voters have continuously responded positively to Columbus’ bond issues.

"Over those 50 years, the promise has been kept and the property taxes associated with these bonds have not been imposed. All we have to do is break that promise one time," he said.

This "no new taxes" scenario is possible because the city sets aside a portion of every dollar collected to pay off debts.

According to City Finance Director Joel Taylor, most of the projects the city hopes to fund through the bonds will have to be done whether the issues pass or fail.

"We have no choice but to the work on many of these projects. The bonds to fund the projects would just be more costly," said Taylor.

Dorian added that while the bond issues are "no new taxes" and would come at no additional cost to the voters, a vote against the issues could effect the pockets of Columbus residents.

"For example, if the voters says ‘no’ when it comes to water and sewer, rate payers will have to pay more. Prices will go up," said Dorian.

"We’re always hearing about rising costs," said Dorian. "We as a city are compelled to keep our sewer and infrastructure safe. We’re going to do it at any cost. This is the cheapest way."

He also noted that other less necessary projects, such as parks and recreation projects, would still happen but at a much slower pace.

Dorian also echoed previous promises that the city will only handle projects that the city can pay off with current revenues.

"We need Columbus’ support," said Council President Michael Mentel. "This is our house. We need to make sure the plumbing works. We need to make sure the roof doesn’t leak. We need to make sure the foundation is strong. That’s what this bond issue does."

"Let’s make sure this passes in November because it’s critical. This is what keeps Columbus thriving," Mentel added.

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