Durham libertarians are urging city residents to vote no on the street bond referendum that will appear on the November ballot.
“Durham is already more than $400 million in debt and the mayor wants to add to that burden,” said Matt Drew, Durham Libertarian Party chair. He said that yearly debt payments are $50 million and $15 million of that is just in interest.
City officials estimate that debt-service payments on the proposed $20 million bond would add 0.76 cents per $100 of assessed value to the city’s fiscal 2011-12 property tax rate. That would add $11.40 to the tax bill for a $150,000 house.
The money is supposed to help clear a backlog of street repairs, according to city officials. This is not the first street bond issue put before Bull City voters. Another $20 million street bond passed with a overwhelming 74 percent of the vote in 2007, but none of that money has actually been spent yet.
Drew questions why the city is borrowing money to fund basic infrastructure, yet giving away millions of dollars in corporate welfare.
“While the city is funding basic services through debt, the city council just voted to hand over $4.2 million dollars in corporate welfare to Greenfire (a private developer) to build a hotel,” Matt Drew said. Drew was only one of two people who spoke against the Greenfire welfare grant at the public hearing September 20.
“Somehow we can find dollars in our budget to pad corporate profits, but not for road construction,” he said. “That’s just wrong. It’s setting the stage for even more borrowing to fund basic city services in the future.”
In addition to increasing taxes earlier this year, he said that the city council is going to increase taxes again to pay for this bond.
“Ask yourself: do these tax increases ever go away once the bond is paid off,” he said. He said that the city council just needs to make the hard decisions, set priorities and pay for the repairs from the general fund.
“Voters should send the council the message that we’re tired of living beyond our means, and that we should be paying for basic services once instead of twice through interest,” Drew said.