Bonds are on the ballot for all of Roswell's residents and I want to make sure everyone that I talk to understands this in its entirety. Bonds are an extremely effective method for municipalities to raise funding to work on a variety of projects. Even better news? Roswell has maintained a AAA bond rating, which means we receive the most favorable interest rates for issued debt. More information is available here.
There are three (3) bonds up for consideration, and all exclusive of each other - meaning we can pass one, two, all, or none if we like. The catch is you MUST vote to have any sort of impact. The majority rule is in play, so any bonds receiving greater than 50% of yesses will pass - regardless of how many people vote. Based on an estimated average value of a Roswell home at $450,000 (and assumed lower interest rates when the referendums were written), the total ANNUAL cost to property tax-paying residents will be about $342 or about $28.50 per month.
Let's review the bonds.
Bond 1 - $107,600,000 for Recreation, Parks, Bicycle and Pedestrian paths, and Sidewalks. This bond will allow us to begin working on completing our River Parks Master Plan written May 2016. This will be a great opportunity to make much needed improvements! The estimated cost of this bond is about $17.08 per month in additional property taxes.
Bond 2 - $52,000000 for Public Safety (Police and Fire) capital projects. We need to update a few fire stations, replace a couple, and we need a new 911 operations center that will provide a critical command center for emergencies. The estimated cost of this bond is about $8.25 per month in additional property taxes.
Bond 3 - $20,000,000 for a Public Parking Deck located downtown to alleviate business owner concerns over lack of parking. Keep in mind, there are a lot of unused parking spaces that are a quick 5-minute or less of a walk from our City Hall parking lot including our Cultural Center. Between the two, there are about 400 available spaces at any given time available for visitors to use - unless there happens to be an event at the Cultural Arts Center or Georgia Ensemble Theatre has a production. An efficient and effective solution to begin with is better signage advertising what is available in terms of free parking. Though a parking deck may be the solution - I want resident feedback first and I want to make sure residents are educated on how the bond referendum will work. The estimated cost of this bond is about $3.17 per month in additional property taxes.
Personally, I believe that to build a better city for our children and our children's children, we need to invest in capital projects to improve ourselves.
The Recreation and Parks bond makes sense to me - granted it is an extremely large financial commitment. Not only will we add new features to our recreational areas, but this bond will also cover extensive repairs that have been forgone for many years as well.
The Public Safety bond makes sense to me also. We have outgrown our police headquarters and our fire stations were not built to accommodate our current personnel. Believe it or not, sleeping areas are separated by plywood walls, offering very little privacy and some fire stations only have one bathroom. We must do better. We are in desperate need of a central Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to house our command personnel so that strategic planning can be made centrally and quickly between our first responders. Not to mention, the EOC will house our 911 operations center - which is 1 of only 21 in the world to receive the 'Triple Ace' award from the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. Growing up in the much smaller town of Cleveland, Mississippi, we had an EOC at which I volunteered extensively as a dispatcher. I can attest to the importance of having key personnel in one place to enhance our abilities to quickly respond to emergency situations - whether those be hazmat calls, search and rescue missions, or severe storm responses - the impact was priceless.
Lastly, is the Parking Deck bond. I wish we had first considered establishing a Community Improvement District (CID) or a Tax Allocation District (TAD), which would allocate tax dollars from businesses within the district towards capital improvement projects of specific benefit to them. Why? Because the benefit of the parking deck is limited to, and meant to support, the businesses within Canton Street area - and truthfully, a lot of residents do not visit the area all that often. However, Canton Steet does bring in visitors (and tax dollars) from other parts of our region that support them. Another option would be to act on the Public Art Master Plan from 2017 which suggested a performing arts center, which could be in the Canton Street corridor and the parking garage could be part of that. So, with these thoughts in mind, this bond does NOT make sense to me at this time.