The way the city of Bexley funds street repairs may change in the near future.
Until now, the city has used revenue from a levy to do street work, but city council is considering issuing bonds for several million dollars to fund more repairs.
While this is new for Bexley, it’s common in other communities, according to Service Director Bill Harvey.
"Columbus does it all the time," he said.
Harvey said the current street levy, paid by homeowners in the city, raises about $800,000 a year. He is proposing to council that the city borrow about $3 million in bonds and pay them off over the next 15 years or so using part of the $800,000 from the levy.
"If the price of repairing these streets goes up at 15 percent a year, and I can borrow money today at 5 percent," Harvey said. "It makes sense to do more work today."
The city is also likely to get a better price on projects, he believes, if they have contractors do more at a time.
It’s an idea that had been brought up before, Council Member Rick Weber said, but until now, nothing had been done about it. He said it’s an opportunity to get ahead of schedule.
If it works well, Harvey said he might ask for more in the future. But there are some potential problems. It remains to be seen if they will save money by doing bigger projects, and the prices of materials are not guaranteed and could have an impact.
Harvey also said some people are concerned that doing too much work in one part of the city would cause congestion.
"There’s a logical point at which there’s only so much you can do," Weber said.
Another concern raised was that since the streets would be repaired more quickly, they might need renovations in the future all at the same time.
"I would suggest that we set up a capital improvements fund and put money aside so that in 25 years when I need to fix that street … hopefully most of the money is already put aside," Harvey said.
He said the council supports such a fund.
One drawback, he said, is that if the city doesn’t have enough money to meet normal operating expenses, it’s difficult to put money aside. The city is starting a task force to figure out ways to reduce cost or increase revenue, and Harvey said that would hopefully result in having money available for the capital improvement fund.
Weber said some of the money from the bonds would also go toward a sidewalk repair project that the city committed to this summer. He estimated that would cost about $1 million.
The council hasn’t decided exactly how much to borrow yet, Weber said. The city has to decide how much of the yearly street levy it wants to apply toward paying off the bonds, which will affect the decision on how much to borrow.
Harvey said the city also hasn’t decided which streets to repair yet, and the decision won’t be made for at least a couple of months.