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Suggestions To Pare Down Jamestown’s Proposed $6.9 Million Bonding Proposal

It’s a bit disingenuous to say Jamestown is only borrowing $6.9 million for a slew of capital projects.

As city resident Doug Champ correctly pointed out, the cost to city taxpayers between now and the bond’s pay-off date of December 2048 is actually more than $12 million when you consider interest because the city is borrowing after interest rates skyrocketed because the Federal Reserve is trying to tamp down inflation nationally.

We’re not saying all of the $6.9 million worth of projects is poorly spent. Buildings need roofs. Water lines have to be replaced. Buildings that have been started need to be finished whether you agree with the building or its cost.

But city officials should absolutely do everything they can to reduce the size of this bond issue because interest rates are so high. The city doesn’t have a crystal ball, and no one what the city’s budget will look like in 2048. It’s entirely possible the mayor and City Council in the 2040s will look back at this mayor and council and regret this bond act the same way current council members regret minimum staffing agreements approved by council members some three decades ago.

The good news is the council can cut the $6.9 million proposal nearly in half if it has the will to do so.

It is probably possible to forego $750,000 of the project. Security upgrades and window replacement at city hall are something city officials want, but probably don’t desparately need. It’s also possible to revisit some such projects when interest rates are much lower than they are now. Dedicating the remaining $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding further reduces the bond issue’s impact on future budgets. It’s possible to slice another $1.5 million off that amount — though the council won’t be popular if it does so — by pulling back the previously approved Non-Profit Assistance Grant. The council approved creation of the program months ago, but the funding hasn’t been disbursed yet. None of the grant requests are for immediate community needs, and one can argue the need to save money over the course of 25 years outweighs many of the non-profit grant requests.

As we said, the council won’t be popular in many circles if it takes such a step. But taking the three steps above allows the city to fix the Fenton History Center’s roof, the roof at City Hall, the roof at the DPW building on Steele Street, heating and ventilation upgrades at City Hall and the water line at Bergman Park.

The city is currently at 29.25% of its constitutional debt limit with $15,021,956 in debt currently outstanding. That’s laudable — but shouldn’t be construed as an invitation to charge up the city credit card either. It’s time to pare this bond issue down.

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