Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#Davidson Bonds: June deadline to decide - many questions outstanding

Remember that feeling you had the first time you jumped off the high dive into the deep end of the pool?  The thought "maybe I didn't think this all the way through!?!?" probably flashed through your mind.

There was a moment during the discussion Tuesday night on Davidson possibly conducting its first ever "general obligation" bond referendum when you could sense that same feeling in the room.

Davidson's Board was in the middle of a tutorial on the GO bond process when Commissioner Rodney Graham asked the town's bond counsel from high-powered law firm Parker Poe for advise on how Davidson should structure the bonds to help ensure passage.  The response was that town officials typically have their finger on the pulse of public opinion and know when things will pass or when they are in trouble.

One got the distinct feeling in the room that may not be the case in Davidson.

Maybe it's the lingering bad feelings over the Mi-Connection decision which has put the town in the position of needing to look at bonds in the first place.  Or maybe, it is the more recent swirl around the Catalyst Project and the surprising amount of pushback from residents.  That seemed to catch Town Hall off guard and could certainly feed into uncertainty on the idea of bonds.

What was clear is this...

The Town has a lot of decisions to make in a big hurry if they want to put a good proposal before voters this November.  The man from Parker Poe outlined a series of steps that need to occur and those need to start in June. 

To do that, the Town needs to...
  • understand how exactly it wants to divide up the bond questions;
  • get a better idea of exactly what projects would be in each proposal;
  • identify the real dollar amount needed for the projects;
  • identify what the tax rate impacts are for each proposal;
The bond counsel mentioned in other towns he'd seen efforts to have public input on forming the list of projects.  It doesn't seem like there is time to complete something like that now.  So, Davidson will likely depend on previous documents such as the "Walks and Rolls" plan or the ever present Comprehensive Plan.

However, when you get down to talking about spending real money on real projects - not just hypothetical plans - and you want to raise taxes to do it, that certainly may not be enough.

Bonus Observation: According to, municipal bond referendums have a solid record of passing in November elections across the state in recent years.  One example where one failed recently was in Bald Head Island where a bond for a "broadband system" failed.  One has to wonder what would have happened if Davidson had put Mi-Connection to a vote back in 2007.  If they had, we might not be talking about bonds and higher taxes now.

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