As North Augusta attempts to move forward with Project Jackson, opponents are calling the project’s funding model into question.
The public contribution of Project Jackson, which is slated to include a new ballpark for the Augusta GreenJackets (Low A; Sally League), is being backed by revenue bonds. North Augusta recently voted to reauthorize Project Jackson as a Municipal Improvement District (MID). That essentially allows the South Carolina city to pay off related debts by using tax revenue generated from Project Jackson, which is also slated to include retail, dining, office, lodging, and residential space.
The funding model was once the subject of a lawsuit, but the State Supreme Court later found that the project fit the criteria. Opponents, however, are contending that the revenue bonds will city more money over the long run, and that a general obligation bond would be obtained at a lower interest rate. The counter from North August officials is that by using revenue bonds, the city could put itself in a position to avoid a tax increase. More from the Aiken Standard:
“I think they are very determined to make this project go,” said Richard Fletcher, a leading critic of Project Jackson. “They fear a referendum. If they went the referendum route to get a lower interest rate, they think it will fail.”
City officials, however, say the decision to use revenue bonding helps avoid future citywide tax increases, said North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover.
“The general obligation bond referendum was discussed early on in public meetings, and there was not a lot of difference in the rate,” Glover said. “We felt like the (revenue bond) gave us more flexibility. It was not pledging the full faith and credit of the city. With general obligation bonds, you were absolutely tied to a tax increase.”
According to North Augusta budget documents, the revenue bond option comes with a 4.58 percent interest rate.
The typical interest rate on a 30-year general obligation municipal bond is about 2.58 percent, according to http://bloomberg.com.
The project will require another reading before it is finalized. Under a recently released timeline, construction on portions of Project Jackson will start early next year. The GreenJackets’ ballpark is currently scheduled to open in 2018.
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