The bonds would fund maintenance and repairs on borough-owned school buildings.
The ordinance passed 6-1 with Mel Stephens voting no.
“I do not think we are ready to present this matter to the voters because I do not think it has been properly thought through, and I do not trust the financial figures which staff has brought forward in an attempt to justify this ordinance,” Stephens said. He pointed to debt figures that were “all over the place.”
Karleton Short, the borough’s Finance Director, explained the figures as representing different things, some the total amount of bonds, some the net principal of the bond, some with the amortization included.
A justification for the bonds put forward by several assembly members and Borough Manager Bud Cassidy is that the state is expected to refund 70 percent of the cost.
“I think it’s important that we take advantage of this opportunity when we have the chance, have the state pay for $8 million of a $10 million project,” said Assemblyman Frank Peterson Jr. “It seems like a no-brainer to me, because these are projects we’re going to have to pay for anyway.”
“If we bond the renewal and replacement projects for the school, then we are guaranteed the 70 percent reimbursement from the state as long as we apply while they’re still allowing that,” said Assemblywoman Carol Austerman. “That’s the big benefit to doing this.”
However, Cassidy said it’s not guaranteed.
“I will say that it’s subject to legislative appropriation, that’s a yearly basis, and that’s the way it’s always been,” Cassidy said. “There’s no guarantee, but I think in all the years the state’s been doing this, they’ve funded the program all but one.”
Another reason for passing the bonds, according to the supporting assembly members, is that repairs and maintenance are the responsible thing for building owners to do.
“If we don’t do this, we’re going to have to scrounge and come up with other ways to pay for this,” said Assemblywoman Chris Lynch. “I think this is our best option, and I’d like to see us move ahead.”
Stephens said he agrees maintaining buildings is important, but he doesn’t think the bonds are the proper way of going about it until some of his concerns about the borough’s debt are addressed.
“We’ve got to maintain our facilities, you bet, but folks, that’s why we established the facilities fund in the first place,” Stephens said.
Some of the projects scheduled to use the bond money include replacing worn out items, roof repairs and making heating and cooling systems more efficient.
There is necessary maintenance to be done even if voters don’t pass the issue, according to Cassidy.
“We can let them ride a little longer, but it just creates more deferred maintenance and many times small projects become larger projects and become more expensive,” Cassidy said.
In other business, the borough funded repainting of the Port Lions School, designated the landfill expansion as their top funding priority, and approved the hiring of a Solid Waste Manager/Environmental Specialist.
Contact Julie Herrmann at email@example.com.