I am honored and humbled by being asked to fill the shoes of the man who inks the best column in Fayetteville, Bill Bowman. He’s on his way back from his annual South Dakota motorcycle pilgrimage to Sturgis.
I appreciate the work of our Mayor and City Council. I’m glad they have a real desire to improve the quality of life in our All-American City. They have illustrated this twice in the last 12 months, once when they charged forward with the Parks and Recreation plan and now in bringing a new baseball stadium to Fayetteville along with a minor league team.
As some of you know I did not support the bond referendum to fund the Parks and Recreation initiative. The reason was simple as I wrote back in January in an op-ed piece “in the recent municipal election, some of our Council members campaigned loudly that they were going to hold the line on hasty tax hikes — they would support no tax increase until they had looked under the hood to see what synergies or savings they could find.”
Without delivering on its promise to drill down into the budget in search of synergies they proceeded with the referendum in March 2016. They went on to ask the citizens of Fayetteville to approve a bond that would raise property tax by 2.5 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value to fund the $35 million Parks and Recreation initiative.
In retrospect I took a closer look to see what would unfold during the budgeting process as well as new initiatives such as the baseball stadium. Here’s what I found.
1) We all remember what the PWC debacle ended up costing the City. Between attorneys and consulting fees more than $1 million was spent to defend the lawsuit the city of Fayetteville brought against PWC. The city of Fayetteville failed in its attempt to take over control of PWC. The good news is it appears this issue has been resolved in a new charter approved by the North Carolina Legislature.
2) Seems our City Council wanted to increase storm water fees to fund an initiative to upgrade our current system. Lo and behold it appeared there was $4 to $5 million left from a previous authorization. That’s right, it was there all along. I’m sure we will need additional funding in the years to come for storm water. It may even involve an assessment of higher storm water fees. My point is, out of the blue, $4 to $5 million was found within the city of Fayetteville’s coffers.
3) Now it appears we are about to build a minor league stadium which carries a price tag of around $35 million. We spent more than $500,000 on consulting fees in doing the cities due diligence. I am assured by our elected officials the financing of this project will not involve a tax increase. Furthermore, I’ve been told the City of Fayetteville can come up with $20 million for this project on its own.
My question now is, if we could find the money to fund $1.5 million for legal fees and consultant fees, $4 to $5 million to fund the 2017 budget for storm water from monies the Council did not know was there, and finally find $20 million within the coffers of the city of Fayetteville to fund a new baseball stadium, why was it necessary to raise the property tax 2.5 cents to fund the Parks and Recreation initiative?
Sometimes I think the entire City Council is out playing POKEMON GO and the residents of Fayetteville are the one’s getting poked.
As Bill would say: “Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.”