Ansonia residents will have the opportunity to exercise some serious power at the polls this fall, and I’m not even talking about the presidential election.
Republicans and Democrats on the Board of Aldermen unanimously placed eight questions on the November ballot designed to move Ansonia forward without raising taxes.
A new police station at Olson Drive, upgrades to emergency equipment and city buildings, along with the paving of city streets are all part of what amounts to an $18 million tax-neutral borrowing initiative based on the city’s capital improvement plan.
More specifically, the police station is to be financed by a 40 year low interest loan from the USDA, while all other items are to be financed through the issuance of bonds.
Of course this raises important questions: why borrow, and why now? Simply put, the city is an excellent position to borrow funds. Under the circumstances, borrowing is by far the most responsible way to finance these needed improvements without raising taxes.
Borrowing allows us to take advantage of old city debt that will be retired by 2020. The retiring of old debt allows the city to borrow without increasing the current annual level indebtedness. The new debt replaces the old debt, and has a neutral impact on taxes. It’s a “wash” for taxpayers.
Further, the city’s recent bond rating upgrade allows us to take advantage of a lower interest rate. This makes the circumstances even more advantageous – we will be paying less interest on the new debt as compared to the old debt being retired.
Discerning voters will of course wonder: isn’t it better to finance these improvements through the budget and avoid interest payments all together? The answer is that such a strategy would avoid interest payments, but would also result in a substantial tax increase for residents. The only alternative would be to completely drain the general fund, which is dangerous and unnecessary given the more responsible alternative that borrowing offers under the circumstances.
Voters might also wonder: are all these projects even necessary? The answer is “yes.” The proposed improvements are all critical needs that will have to be accomplished sooner or later. Delaying the inevitable will actually result in a higher cost to taxpayers and surprise tax increases. This initiative ditches the old “pay as you go” philosophy that has hurt taxpayers in the past.
The largest item at the ballot will be the new police station at Olson Drive. Yet this initiative yields a tremendous return on investment: 1) a larger and more centrally located facility for our police force; and 2) the positive transformation of our downtown area, essential for economic development and enhancing residents’ quality of life. Failure to proceed with the station at Olson Drive may impact the amount of public housing placed back on the site.
I strongly encourage residents to vote “yes” on all ballot questions. I also look forward to meeting with residents to answer questions regarding this important initiative.
The writer represents the Seventh Ward on Ansonia’s Board of Aldermen.
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