Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cross the Brazos at Waco – whither Six Shooter?

Hard times force hard choices in McLennan County Commissioners' Court meetings

Waco – The discussion Tuesday morning was circuitous, revolving, worrisome. Pros. Cons. What if?

What if the Court elects to pay off almost $6 million in general obligation bonds 10 years in advance of their maturity date?

The financial advisor and the bond counsel were at pains to make the Commissioners understand the advantages of either doing business that way, or not.

McLennan County took on the 20-year obligation 10 years ago; the practical goal at the time was to improve Cameron Park, to beautify the River Walk, make downtown more ambient and inviting in and around the old cattle ford and the historic suspension bridge.

Now, if they should spend the $5.9 million to retire the debt, it would save taxpayers $1.9 million in debt service payments – a whopping $780,000 per year in payments on interest and principal.

But what if that's not the best route to go? Who can see the future? No one. Times are hard, the future uncertain.

Commissioners batted the question back and forth for an hour, asking for the opinions of the lawyers, the County Auditor Stan Chambers.

The conundrum. Yes, they could spend the cash, but is that the wisest choice? They do have other debts out there, reminded Commissioner Lester Gibson.

Ninety percent of the question comes down to a market consideration. The bonds are callable until budget time in October. It's all about keeping an adequate reserve – in case of emergency.

“There are other uses that may come up,” said the financial advisor, the bond counsel, the auditor.

They agreed to defer their decision – there will be plenty of time.

Ditto consideration of the purchase of a parcel of land somewhere with I-35 frontage to relocate the Precinct 1 barn. Texas DOT condemned the present facility, which was built out in the country when it was first acquired and erected, to widen the freeway through town.

After an extensive executive session, the Court came back to open session, having made no decision.

Similar line items on the consent agenda were cut out of the herd, one by one, as Commissioners had concerns and questions about the bang of the buck, the effectiveness of spending folding money in quite the way requested.

A department head needs money to replace old and worn out computers – decision deferred for at least a week.

The building supervisor needs to let an $11,500 contract to a waterproofing outfit to get their expertise on how Parsons Roofing is to seal expensive leaks where water is getting in under a pre-installed roof and running down the walls, damaging equipment and expensive records.

Are there any local contractors available, asked Commissioner Kelly Snell? The man didn't know of any – at least none with the level of expertise necessary to get the job done.

Had he checked with the local builders association? No, but he will. There's always next week.

The 19th District court Reporter requested reimbursement for a keyboard and the record of a felony criminal trial that was destroyed by the leaking roof. You're looking at about a thousand dollars.

So it goes. Budget crunching time looms on the horizon. September is approaching on fleet feet, and the crew is mindful of the revenue bond obligations facing taxpayers to satisfy funds needed to build the Jack Harwell Detention Facility to suit CEC (Civigenics) Corporation, a project that drained the downtown lockup of its federally contracted prisoners and placed them in the empty new jail.

Nothing is certain and there is little happiness in the gathering heat of summer. What else is new?

No comments:

Post a Comment