Full Descriptions of Proposed Projects and Descriptions
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Why Have These Meetings?
- The city has $709.2 million in unfunded capital needs, including buildings, parks, infrastructure and equipment The City Council recently reviewed the list and proposed that the city move forward with $175 million worth of projects.
- The proposed list includes 11 transportation projects that would cost $60.65 million, eight public safety projects that would cost $31 million, 19 recreation projects that would cost $30.85 million, three economic development projects that would cost $25 million, two housing development programs that would cost $10 million, and $17.5 million to improve and update the Benton Convention Center. A complete list of projects is on the inside flap.
- The list of projects includes only items that are the responsibility of city government. They do not include schools, libraries or other projects that are the responsibility of county and state government.
- The City Council is considering a bond referendum to pay for most of these projects.
- Before moving forward, the City Council wants feedback from citizens.
- MAY: City Council reviews citizen feedback from capital needs meetings.
- JUNE 16: City Council approves publishing notice of intent to hold a referendum and submitting an application to the Local Government Commission.
- AUGUST 18: City Council holds a public hearing, adopts the bond orders, and sets the date for the bond referendum.
- NOVEMBER 4: Date of bond referendum
How were the projects selected?
The City Council held a series of meetings earlier this year to review the city’s unfunded capital needs, consider what projects would be appropriate for a bond referendum and determine what the city could afford to address and the potential impact on tax rates. City staff took their guidance and developed a proposed list of projects, which the council then refined into the list in this brochure.
Could the list of projects change?
Yes. The City Council will review comments from citizens at the capital needs meetings before finalizing the list of projects that would go before the voters.
Why pay for these projects with bonds?
General obligation bonds are the least-expensive way to finance these projects, thanks to the city’s high credit rating. Because our credit rating is high and the bonds are guaranteed by the city’s taxing authority, the city will pay less interest on the bonds than if it used some other form of financing. G.O. bonds would finance all projects but the Benton Convention Center.
How would we pay for the Convention Center improvements?
Improvements and updates to the Benton Convention Center would be financed through a mortgage that would use the convention center as collateral. This financing can be issued without voter approval, so it would not appear on the ballot. Using this type of financing would enable the city to move forward with this project more quickly and limit the disruption to operations.
What effect will this have on my taxes?
If the bonds are approved, they will be issued in stages over approximately six years. If the city were to finance all $175 million in projects, the city Finance Department estimates that the city property tax rate could increase up to 2.5 cents, starting in July 2015. Based on this, the owner of a house valued at $200,000 would pay $50 more in property taxes starting in August 2015. This works out to about $4.17 per month.
Why can’t we pay as we go?
The city has used pay-as-you-go financing for its capital needs since the last bond referendum in 2000. This has not been sufficient to meet our needs, resulting in the current backlog of $709.2 million in unfunded capital needs. Borrowing $175 million will allow the city to address the most pressing of these needs and pay the money back over time, much as people do when they borrow money to buy a house or a vehicle.
When will the City Council decide on a bond referendum?
In order to ensure that the bonds can be voted on in November, the City Council must act by August 18. This gives sufficient time for the N.C. Local Government Commission to review the proposed bonds and authorize the city to hold the bond referendum. The commission acts as a safety check to ensure that local governments do not issue more debt than they can afford to repay.
Why do we have to vote on these bonds?
When a city issues general obligation bonds, it pledges its “full faith and credit” to repay the bonds. To assure that the city will meet this commitment, voters are required to vote in a referendum that would authorize a tax levy, if needed, to repay the bonds.
Why don’t the proposed bonds include any money for schools?
Public schools in Forsyth County are financed by Forsyth County. As such, school projects are the responsibility of the Forsyth County Commissioners.
Didn’t we just vote on library bonds in 2010? Why are we having another referendum so soon?
Public libraries, like schools, are operated by Forsyth County. The 2010 referendum on library bonds was held by the Forsyth County Commissioners.