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Crestwood voters will decide $6 million bond issue April 5


January 19, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A $6 million general obligation bond issue designed to resolve Crestwood's general fund woes will be considered by voters in the April 5 election.

A four-sevenths supermajority vote will be required to approve the bond issue, which would increase the city's property tax rate by roughly 30 cents for a 10-year period until the bonds are retired. The city's current property tax rate is 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The Board of Aldermen voted 7-0 with one abstention last week to adopt an ordinance placing the bond issue on the ballot.

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel abstained.

Other aldermen contended that during a recent work session Miguel had agreed to support a bond issue.

However, Miguel countered that his support was contingent on the total package offered voters, particularly the defeasement of bond-like certificates issued to fund im-provements at the Government Center, in-cluding a new police facility. Before discussing the general obligation bond issue Jan. 11, aldermen voted 6-2 to seek bids for the "retrofitting'' of the Government Cen-ter to include a new police facility.

Miguel and Ward 3 Alderman Don Mad-dox were opposed.

Miguel and Maddox also were the only aldermen to vote in favor of Maddox's motion to halt all work on the Government Center and police facility and defease the certificates of participation, or COPS, issued to fund the project. In voting in favor of defeasing the COPs, both cited concerns about a decline in the city's sales-tax revenue.

Maddox, however, joined six other aldermen to vote in favor of placing the $6 million bond issue on the April 5 ballot. As proposed, the $6 million bond issue would be used to allow the city to retire its line of credit with Southwest Bank, establish re-serves sufficient to meet the city's cash-flow needs and reconcile debts the general fund owes other city funds.

At one point during the board's discussion, Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood noted that passage of the bond issue would cost the owner of a $155,000 home roughly $87 per year — about $7.26 per month, $1.67 per week or less than 24 cents per day.

During a period for public comment, of the five residents who spoke, none opposed placing the bond issue on the ballot. In fact, one resident said he was willing to pay his share that night.

Richard Bland said, "First of all, I would just like to simply say this: Thank you. I know that sometimes you hear the negative and I'd just like to say I applaud you for doing what you do ...''

Noting that the tax-rate increase would cost him about $100 per year, he said, "... I've seen the Fire Department in action responding to a friend's house fire. I've had the Fire Department respond to my next-door neighbor's gas leak and I've had the police respond to my house and I've seen them respond to others.''

Besides top-notch public safety services, Bland cited the Aquatic Center as another example of the kinds of amenities offered by Crestwood.

"... If it's going to cost me a hundred dollars a year to help me keep that definition in my mind of a municipality to live here and I've lived here for over 15 years now, I think that might be one of the best bargains going right now. That's what separates us from unincorporated county. That's why I'm not living there ... If it just was simply to save money, there's Jeffer-son County and Hillsboro and places like that and St. Charles County. I'm here be-cause of those things,'' Bland said.

"If it's going to cost me a hundred dollars, I'll pay tonight,'' he added, offering his services in support of the bond issue.

During the discussion of whether to defease the COPs earlier that evening, Miguel said, "... If this board plans to ask for a tax hike, I feel it's got to give something in return. If we are serious about re-ducing debt and agree to pay off the COPs bonds, then I in good conscience could move forward and support general obligation bonds to eliminate our short-term debt, pay off our line of credit and establish a reserve. In eliminating the police bond debt, we are not giving up on safety issues or the needs of the Police Department.

"The needs of the Police Department and the needs of the city will be met, but they will be met on a pay-as-you-go basis. Un-less we pay off the COPs, there's no way in good conscience that I can take this back to my constituents and ask them to vote for a property tax increase,'' he said.

Miguel later said, "... I regret the misunderstanding as far as my position. I don't believe — and I could be wrong — I don't believe said unequivocally I would support a GO issue. What I believe I said was it depends on the total package.''

After some aldermen, including True-blood and Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher, expressed surprise at Miguel's comment, Maddox interjected, "That's exactly what he said and that's what I said also.''

During the discussion of the general obligation bond issue, Kelleher noted, "... I said at the Dec. 29 work session that if we were not unified as a board, marketing, if you will, doing public relations at the town-hall meetings and explaining this in great detail so that the voters understand it and know what they're voting about that I believe we could possibly be setting ourselves up for failure ... And, of course, when we talked about it on Dec. 29, we agreed — I guess if (Ward 4) Alderman (Patricia) Duwe doesn't take exception — we had a gentlemen's agreement that, a gentle persons' agreement that we were all in favor of this and that we would go forward with it ...''

Referring to Miguel's earlier comments about defeasance, Kelleher said, "We learned that Alderman Miguel is now possibly applying caveats to that agreement and I still firmly believe that if we are not unified as a board that this has a very high percentage of failing ...''

Miguel later said, "... As I said earlier at the Ward 3 town-hall meeting, the message that came through loud and clear to me at that meeting and continues to come across to me is that cut all possible expenses before you ask for a tax levy. My constituents, at least the ones that I speak to, view the new police building as something to be cut.''

Noting his previous remark about how his support for a general obligation bond issue hinged on the total package, he said that package would include the defeasance of the COPs.

Mayor Tom Fagan said, "Even hypothetically, if the board would have defeased, would that have gotten us out of our financial doldrums, if you will, Mr. Greer?''

City Administrator Don Greer replied that defeasing the certificates would not eliminate the need for the general obligation bond issue.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding later urged Miguel to change his position, saying, "... If one of us is against it and their people they represent are being told that point of view, then you're losing votes ...''

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