Here's what's about to happen: When the city of Kokomo sells bonds to raise money for a new baseball stadium and flood control projects, it will be taking on
In inflation-adjusted dollars, the amount of new debt is about the same as what the city took on in 2001, when it bonded to build
The critics are starting to speak up about the plans, led by Kokomo resident
The mayor has plenty of fans as well, led by the head of
"Places with better amenities do tend to have higher income households, and of course all the benefits that accrue to them," Hicks wrote in a March column. "But for a business looking for workers, the nice place will offer a wage advantage over less attractive locations.
"This result has great meaning, for it means improving quality of place reduces business costs on the most costly of inputs; human capital. So, as we think about attracting business to
Cost of debt
Judged on revenue, Kokomo can more than afford to bond for
The bonds haven't been sold yet, but when they do, they'll probably cost the city around 2.5 percent interest, meaning an annual payment of about
The bonds will be repaid through the city's economic development income tax revenue. The city received about
Property taxes won't be used to pay off the debt.
A novel position
On the larger issue of taking on debt, Kokomo is hardly in a novel position.
As of last year, with
The fact the city was debt-free for a brief period, was, in fact, somewhat novel. No other city Kokomo's size was without general obligation debt in that period.
But Goodnight has definitely been on a project spree, starting with the
"There is a cost to doing nothing," Goodnight said.
On taking on debt, Goodnight notes that the city's annual budget is
"It's always easier, politically, to do nothing. We can leave a hole down on Carter and Murden streets. We can let the [Highland Park CFD Investments] baseball stadium, which hasn't been upgraded in 30 years, continue to deteriorate. Or, we can make a nice community for the people who live here," he said.
Even using the city's pre-annexation population, the overall level of Kokomo's obligations, on a per capita basis, was among the lowest in the state, about
The interest rate charged on bonds is an indication of how investors perceive the city's ability to repay. The last time the city's wastewater utility had a bond series rated, in 2011, Standard & Poor's rated it AA+.
More importantly for local taxpayers,
"I'd say the community in general is in good shape," he said.
The real savings
This past week, Goodnight made a presentation to city employees, detailing how public and private wages in Kokomo compare to other cities and surrounding counties.
The reason for the presentation was mainly to get buy-in from the employees, who have, apart from police officers, seen their wages frozen during Goodnight's tenure, Goodnight and his key staff included.
The city has about 100 fewer employees -- about 20 percent of the workforce -- than when Goodnight arrived.
The cost savings from the wage freezes and attrition have been massive, and are the main reason the city's operating balance has increased every year since Goodnight took office.
The percent of the city budget spent on wages and benefits has dropped from 76 percent to 72 percent in that period.
Instead of spending money on wages and benefits for 100 city employees, the money has been either saved or spent on projects.
"If you look at what we've spent, the difference is we have something to show for it," Goodnight said.
City refinances old bonds The city of Kokomo announced Friday an expected savings of
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