How to complete park bond funding without raising taxes
Feb 21, 2017
On Jan. 10, with the positive leadership of Chairman Mike Boyce, the Board of Commissioners finally funded some of the Parks Bond we voted for in 2008. During his campaign, Chairman Boyce said he would honor the Park Bond vote, and in the first meeting of the year, the Board of Commissioners restored the Debt Service Fund taxes allocated for the Park Bond with a 5-0 vote.
If the new consultative spirit of the board is any indication, the rest of the $40 million should be funded quickly.
Here’s a simple way to do that without raising taxes: $24.7 of the $40 million was just issued with a seven-year repayment schedule. To fund the other $15.3 million the voters approved, the repayment timeline can be extended by a few years. Parks Bond 2008 was set for a 14-year repayment timeline, so the funds will still be repaid in less time than originally planned. That means no taxes need to be raised going forward for Parks Bond 2008 to be fully funded.
The Cobb Parks Coalition continues to actively press for full Park Bond funding because so many ideal parkland properties selected for purchase have been developed during the lengthy eight-year wait time for funding.
Despite the Parks Bond funding process gaining traction, at least one parkland property chosen last year is slated for zoning approval.
A valuable clause in the original Park Bond 2008 resolution states the Board can actually purchase more than $40 million worth of parkland. With real estate inflation and after losing many acres to development, it would make sense for the Board to spend more on greenspace now to plan for the future so more communities can enjoy their neighborhood parks voted for in 2008.
Marietta Daily Journal Letter to the Editor:
A question of honor
Feb 21, 2017
On Jan. 10, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, led by its new chairman, Mike Boyce, approved a resolution to issue General Obligation Park Bonds in an amount up to $24.7 millionto finance the acquisition of land for use as public parks in perpetuity.
For parks supporters, the sweetness of a long-sought commitment to green space was tainted with the bitter taste of a half-kept promise.
Eight years ago an obligation was incurred by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners pursuant to a referendum it initiated and supported which posed the unambiguous question of whether to issue a bond in the amount of $40 million dollars for the purchase of land to be used for public parks. Sixty-seven percent of those voting answered “yes.”
Must referenda be honored? Georgia’s Supreme Court, in Dickey, et al. vs. Storey, et al., 1992, ruled that Floyd County could not use money collected under terms of a referendum for purposes unspecified by that referendum. They deemed obedience to referenda obligatory.
The Cobb County Board, nevertheless, showed little enthusiasm for complying with the 2008 referendum. By contrast, it showed great enthusiasm for investing in Sun Trust Park, and enormous creativity in discovering ways to skirt the legal obstacles to its funding.
Many believe that the high-handed way the “Braves deal” was rammed through is the primary reason why then-chairman Tim Lee was handily defeated by current chairman Mike Boyce.
Indeed, Mike Boyce’s campaign frequently asked why a $40 million investment in parks required a referendum, but a $400 million expenditure for SunTrust Park did not.
To his credit, Chairman Boyce encouraged the Board to immediately issue the Parks Bond, but reduced the amount to $24.7 million due to financing restrictions contained in the original resolution. Half a loaf, some might say, is better than none.
Parks supporters (67 percent of the electorate!), however, are not satisfied with half a loaf, and are determined that the County fulfill its legal and moral obligation to fund the full $40 million.
Many see this as a question of honor and of good, responsive governance. An obligation was incurred by Cobb County government which it is fully capable of keeping.
Partial compliance with the mandate of 2008 is just that: partial!
Readers are encouraged to visit www.cobbparkscoalition.org for more information on this topic.
Norman D. Fagge