I intend to vote in favor of the bond and the continuation of the 1% sales tax that will be decided in the upcoming municipal election. I agree with some of the criticism of this funding proposal—in a perfect world our existing facilities would be upgraded before we invest in new projects. But we all know that will never happen. There will always be old sewer lines to replace or buildings to renovate.
We should keep in mind that the large projects on the funding list, like the Walter Soboleff Center and the Child & Mental Health Center, will only receive start-up funds, an expression by our community that we are willing to put up our own money—an all but required commitment to receive funding from other sources.
We need to maintain and upgrade existing facilities, and our community will be a better place in which to live should we approve funding for the recreational projects on the list.
The advantage to the sales tax/bond combination is that the bond will provide funds up front, giving us the certainty to plan and initiate the projects. The sales tax will pay the first five years of the bond debt, by which time the city will have retired other bonds. The result: no likely increase in our overall bond debt.
I admit to knowing very little about municipal bonds, so I called people whose opinion on such matters I trust. They convinced me that Juneau has prudently managed its bond portfolio with the result we enjoy an excellent bond rating, and that now, a time of very low interest rates, is as good a time as any, perhaps better than ever before, to issue a general obligation bond.
This is not just about Juneau. We have a responsibility as the Capital City to upgrade facilities like Centennial Hall and our harbors, and to complete the airport expansion. Many of our visitors, both tourist and fellow citizens from across the state, use these facilities and spend their money here contributing to the sales tax revenues that will, if approved by the voters, help pay for such projects.