Thursday, May 7, 2009

Those Bonds are Really Expensive

How elective bodies can say with a straight face that bonds do not raise your taxes with a straight face really bugs me. Technically, it is not a tax, but really taxes are what it takes to pay the obligation. Homeowners and property owners get caught holding the bag for paying them off or general obligation funds take money from the budget to pay them off thereby siphoning money for other things like roads, public safety etc. School bonds are listed on the property tax bill and all those add-ons add up. And, of course, the proponents never state what the total debt to bonds actually is before more bonds are floated. It takes an active and astute taxpayer to hunt down that kind of information. Also, the interest accrued from the bond money sitting in special accounts is not necessarily used for the projects that money was allotted for. You have to ask for the CAFR to find that kind of information. We seriously need bond ceiling limits in order to get control of run away budgets and control of costs.

This article, Daniel Borenstein: Disclose full bond costs, is an actual case study of such situations. Just to give you a sample of the article:

For example, when voters passed Measure J in 2005, they were told that bond program would authorize the sale of up to $400 million in bonds. What they weren't told is that the three prior voter-approved measures — Measure E in 1998, Measure M in 2000 and Measure D in 2002 — had authorized another $490 million. Measure J would bring the total to $890 million.
That's only for the principal. Voters weren't told that when the interest payments were added in, the cost would rise to about $2.2 billion.

We need many more articles like this one. Are you listening San Jose Merky News? Probably not, which is why we are canceling the paper.

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