I have an upcoming letter-to-the-editor talking about the mayoral race.
The letter was accepted, but a short time later, a question came back based upon this statement:
“Well, the city’s $250 million in debt, taxes have gone up 100%, and even rich people can’t find a place to live.”
The question was:
“Greg, I think you might have a typo with regard to the city’s debt. Did you mean to write “2.5 million”? That would be closer to the total included on the Debt Service Summary in the most recent budget.”
Now, you know my opinions on the most recent budget...which is 300 pages shorter than previous years’ budgets.
It’s quite convenient for Mayor Engen that the budget is so much shorter in an election year.
Alas, the city still lists previous years’ budgets on their site. So I went digging, and this is what I found:
$190 million in debt.
(The $250 million figure is what I used in 2017, rounding up from the $240 million in debt listed in the 2016 CAFR).
That’s on page 234 of the FY2020 budget. On page 18, you see we spent $14.8 million a year to service our debt.
Amazingly, in the FY2021 budget, this figure has been reduced to $2.5 million.
Why is that? I don’t think reporters will ever ask that question. They should, because to wipe out that much debt so quickly that your interest payments are cut by 84%, that’s a real feat, and something the mayor should be talking-up.
Or...is that not the case?
How the hell did we go from $14.8 million in interest payments on our debt each year to just $2.5 million...in just one year?
Something smells fishy to me.
But that’s a story for another day. The elephant in the room is this $190 million in debt.
In 2009, the city had just $61 million in debt. Even in 2014, the city’s debt was just $88 million. We talked about this at great length five years ago.
Now the city’s debt is $190 million.
My God, what happened...and how do we fix it?