Saturday, June 10, 2017

Roads take back seat in Davidson $15 million GO bond proposal

aShortChronicle told readers a couple of weeks ago about the possibility of Davidson Commissioners putting a sizeable amount of $$$ up for a vote on the town's first ever General Obligation bond.  At the May 23rd Board meeting they took a major step closer towards doing that.

Before getting into the details, readers need to remember this money is not for the truly big ticket item of a new Town Hall and Public Safety facilities.  The Board won't let you vote on that.  Instead, that will likely depend on a 15% stealth tax increase at the next property revaluation in 2019.

These bonds are for other things.  By one Board member's own description, items more appropriate for a GO bond vote include items that are "nice to have, not critical services."  While aShortChronicle wholeheartedly disagrees with this limitation everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  However, it should be pointed out that by the logic most Davidson Commissioners appear to be using, schools would never go up for GO bonds, neither would roads.  Many people, probably most, would consider those critical services by government yet citizens regularly vote on them.

At the May 23rd meeting Commissioners instructed staff to prepare a $15 million bond this November for what can best be described as primarily mobility projects.  However, in true Davidson style "mobility" doesn't just mean roads.

This bond order to be voted on at this coming Tuesday's meeting will be broken up into three parts - transportation, greenways, and parks.  Here is the bond order language for each part.

aShortChronicle confirmed with the Town that if approved by the Board, this should end up as three different ballot questions in November.  That's a good thing as it won't be a single "take it or leave it" $15 million question.  However, based on a review of the proposed projects, Davidson Town Hall appears to be starting off on the wrong foot by deceptively grouping these projects under the above categories.

Here is the list.

Looking specifically at the $6 million Mobility category, there are 2 projects worth just under $2.5 million that are for Multi-Use Paths related to the Potts Sloan Beaty road project.  The rest of the listed projects with dollar amounts are roads. The multi-use path projects, if the Town was interested in being transparent, should be under the Greenways category.  As proof of that, look at the language in the above $5 million bond order for greenways.  It specifically says "multi-use paths" as one of the allowed uses.

Again, if Davidson Town Hall had any interest in being transparent it would recategorize the bond orders to be $3.5m for Roads, $7.5m for Greenways, and $4m for Parks.  Why do you think that is not being done?

Here is one explanation.

Do you think these bonds have a better chance at passing if people think Town Hall is asking for more money for roads or for greenways?  The way they are presenting it, it appears they are spending more on roads.  The reality is that much, much more will go to non-road transportation projects - by more than a 2-1 margin.  In fact, 41% of the money in the category that looks like roads is actually for non-road projects.

We can certainly debate which is better for Davidson, but let's at least debate it honestly.

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