Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Bond Ordinance - good policy or bad politics?

The Council will be voting on two bond ordinances in May totaling $8 million. The second was introduced this month, the first in April.  Last month I questioned why the first bond ordinance did not include new road paving projects. Administrative officials responded that we have enough road projects funded from our previous ordinances.  End of discussion, I thought.

That is, until the May agenda setting meeting when suddenly we were looking at an additional $5 million in capital improvements including $4 million for roads.  Clearly this was pulled together very quickly. Anytime the public is asked to pay for $5 million for projects, all by property taxes and not from grants, deliberation is required.  I hope the administration is up to the task of explaining and justifying this bond ordinance.  I hope this is not an end of term spending spree by Mayor Robinson Briggs.  She has not hesitated to spend the public's money on self serving things in the past - like the group of police that followed her around at the public's expense for her first two years in office.

Plainfield would not be unique in having an outgoing Mayor, Governor or President burden his/her successor with deferred or future expenses but that does not make it a good practice.  I hope my colleagues will evaluate this bond ordinance carefully.  Speaking for myself, I will not prejudge it.  I fear that one of my Council colleagues already judged me against the paving of West Third St.  Actually, I didn't know it was on the project list as individual roads usually are when a bond ordinance is presented to City Council. 

A good outcome would be to prioritize roads such as West Third and take out enough projects so the total dollar value of the two ordinances comes to $5 million.  The most fiscally astute of Mayor Robinson Briggs many City Administrators, Bibi Taylor, put an upper limit on new debt that came to between $4 and $5 million annually.  It is ironic that she now works as the chief fiscal person for Union County after being made to feel unwelcome by Mayor Sharon.

Some of the projects listed on the new ordinance are ones that, with reasonable time and effort, could be partially or fully grant funded.  That will take a Mayor and administration that are on their game, and a Mayor who cares that the homeowners are struggling with our property tax burden already.

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