St. Augustine’s City Commission is about to be reconstituted in its meeting December 6th, and, although the faces substantially will remain the same, if the “old commission”, including Don Crichlow, approves the issue of Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds, the “new commission”, including freshman commissioner Bill Leary, will get to say how that money is to be used.
“Revenue bonds” is a lawyerly way of saying “borrowing money”. Borrowed money that, one day, has to be paid back — with interest.
In a communication from the City’s Department of Consumer Affairs, we are told “City officials hope the weak economy will provide opportunities to refinance existing bonds.”
OK. So we are going to borrow new money to pay off old money that we borrowed at a higher interest rate than the rate at which we can borrow today. If that was all there was to it, this proposition would get a passing “yawn” out of me, but, as City Attorney Ron Brown said, Monday’s proposed resolution only “starts the process” to market the sale of municipal revenue bonds.
Everyone who knows me has heard me recite my steadfast mantra that “you cannot borrow your way out of debt”.
During budget hearings in September, the “old commission” authorized issuing bonds “for capital expenditures . . . for the purpose of designing, installing, constructing, reconstructing and equipping various capital projects.”
I want to know specifically what has created the need to borrow this money. I also want to know specifically what “various capital projects” the “old commission” is going to give the “new commission” money to play with.
Are we borrowing to pay for “designing, installing, constructing, reconstructing and equipping” facilities for the Mayor’s pet project? The three-year long 450th commemoration party in 2013? The one that he says the business community is going to rally behind with cash donations?
If not more, the commission has already gifted $275,000 to First America Foundation, Inc., which, in my understanding, was endowed with City of St. Augustine reserve funds to circumvent Florida’s public meeting laws. I’m still sore about that one.
I resolutely believe that we do not go further into debt, regardless of the cost of borrowing, without a specific use in mind, and, as a taxpayer, I want to know what that use is going to be.