Aldermen Question Plan to Borrow Money for Parks Improvements
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — The city comptroller doesn’t like it, and now some aldermen are questioning the wisdom of issuing bonds to fix up Forest Park and the city’s other 100 plus parks.
The plan to issue $64 million in bonds has been set aside for more study, after Comptroller Darlene Green raised concerns about departing from the city’s “pay as you go” approach to park improvements.
Alderman Fred Wessels agrees with the Comptroller. “Paying as you go has worked great for us,” Wessels said, “It’s worked great since we had the half-cent sales tax and the Great Rivers Greenway money. We have a steady flow of funds that we can use to keep our parks in good shape.”
Wessels worries that after the initial burst of $64 million is spent the city will have a hard time keeping parks up on the stipend of $1 million a year the plan allows.
“Just about three-fourths of the money that would be available for parks now won’t be available after we make the big splurge,” Wessels said, “We’re going to be out of luck.”
Alderman Tom Villa is also voicing concerns about the plan, saying if the city issues bonds, it should be for something vital.
“For instance, a general obligation bond issue to possibly address either public safety or some of our dire infrastructure needs,” Villa said.
Many aldermen support the parks bond issue plan. Alderman Steve Conway, the former Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, says it makes sense.
“Our parks, which are really the main part of what draws us to our neighborhoods, are sorely needing infrastructure improvements ,” Conway said.
Conway says “doling out small amounts of money every year” will not allow for the type of improvements that are needed.
Paying off the bonds would be funded solely through the existing revenue streams already approved by voters, supporters say. The primary sources of revenue to pay off the bonds would be the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1993, and the metro parks fund which was passed by voters in 2000. All the money in those two funds have been marked for parks capital improvements.
The annual cost of paying off the bonds would be $4.5 million. That means the city would be spending $135 million over 30 years in order to get $64 million now it can spend on improvements.
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