Columbia City Council is scheduled to cast its first vote Tuesday on issuing $11 million in bonds to help pay for roads, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure at the BullStreet development and to raze the Gonzales Gardens housing complex.
That new taxpayer debt spread out over 30 years would be in addition to $29 million in a meal-tax bond paying for the construction of the year-round stadium set to open in a month.
The stadium bond also is a 30-year loan repaid largely from taxes paid by patrons of restaurants and bars.
Issuing $11 million in new debt would put the city very close to its bonding capacity for a short time, according to a report on council’s agenda.
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But the new bond is to be issued after June 1 when the city pays off $5 million in previous bond debt, Columbia’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Palen said Monday.
The city will pay off about $5 million annually for the next three years on general obligation bonds, the oldest of which dates to 2007, Palen said. General obligation bonds effectively are loans repaid from property taxes.
Palen told council in February that it must hurry up and decide on new bonds to pay for out-of-pocket expenses the city will have paid by the end of June on the Bull Street campus. He estimated that $10 million will have been taken from the general fund by that time.
In addition, the city has spent about $5 million for sewer and stormwater lines, Palen has said. But those expenses were paid through the sewer and and stormwater budgets, not the general fund.
That $15 million total will have paid for a plaza that is the main entranceway to the ballpark, land for a 19-acre public park on the Bull Street campus downtown, electrical work, sewer service, demolition and other expenses – most on work immediately around the stadium.
Those expenses must be repaid if the city wants to avoid the prospect to lowering its bond rating, which would make borrowing more expensive.
The $11 million bond – $9,655,000 of which would go to BullStreet – would replenish those drawdowns and clear the way to rebuilding Gonzales Gardens, Palen said.
Altogether, the city is contracted to spend $67.2 million to help build out the BullStreet neighborhood and its parking garages. The expansive project in the heart of Columbia is under the direction of developer Bob Hughes of Greenville.
Under the funding plan that council will take up Tuesday, the city in mid- to late June would issue the bond, which would include $1 million to help pay for the demolition of on the nation’s oldest public housing complexes, Palen said.
Low-income housing officials asked council earlier this year to contribute $1 million toward the $2.1 million cost of tearing down the 30-building complex on Forest Drive. The balance is to come from federal aid and a request that Richland County waive $500,000 in debris-dumping expenses.
If council chooses to get the demolition money from another source than a new bond, the June issue would be $1 million less, or $10 million, Palen said.
A second bond for the BullStreet neighborhood would be issued in June 2017, he said. That bond would be for $9.3 million if council agrees to the plan.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.
If you go
Columbia City Council has day-long meetings Tuesday. Its day will start with discussions of updating the city’s water and sewer rate study, include projections about city finances for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and later a presentation on a controversial landlord accountability law and a first vote on new debt to help pay the cost of BullStreet infrastructure.
When: Meetings begin at noon with a work session and the regular meeting is likely to extend into the night.
Where: The work session is in a second-floor City Hall conference room. The regular council meeting is in council chambers on the third floor. City Hall is at 1737 Main St.