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City takes steps to borrow $18M

[9/26/01]Vicksburg officials started the process Tuesday to borrow a record amount of money and give the public a month to call for an election.

“This is the legacy this administration wants to leave behind,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said of issuing $18 million in bonds. “The community wants action and we’re going to take action.”

Previous city bond issues have been for paving projects, construction of the city pool and other capital work including the Vicksburg Convention Center. The average amount borrowed and repaid from tax funds is about $6 million.

Voters here have not petitioned for a public vote on any bond issue in 50 years, but if 1,500 file a petition at City Hall before Oct. 23, the Mayor and Aldermen would have to call for an election in which voters could give a thumbs down.

If the plan is approved, the repayment of the bonds, which would total about $20 million including interest, could result in a tax increase next December.

The list of projects for the money presented by Leyens includes downtown redevelopment, the waterfront expansion and several recreation and road projects.

City Strategic Planner Paul Rogers said the 10-year general obligation bonds may be paid back through a 6.88-mill increase in 2002 in the rate used to calculate property taxes. At that rate, the city will collect about an additional $2 million per year in additional taxes in order to make the annual payments.

Leyens said an increase may not be required or may be less due to rising property values and increasing sales tax income.

“The tax increase is only assuming that we get no return on investment,” Leyens said.

If the city does raise taxes to repay the bonds, the increase on the average homeowner would be an increase of about $29 per year, Rogers said.

The city now owes about $10.7 million on bonds issued in the past, and that amount is expected to be repaid in the next five years. Rogers said that even if the city does have to raise taxes to pay off the $18 million in bonds, the rate should return to today’s level in five years after the old debt has been repaid.

If no one petitions for an election before Oct. 23, the board will be able to issue the bonds over the next two years.

In other matters the board:

Approved various documents and resolutions required by the federal government for a Community Development Block Grant to fund a railroad spur near U.S. 61 South. The project which will provide rail service to Hancor Inc. is being funded by a $650,000 grant and a $267,306 loan. The loan will be repaid through a lease between Hancor and the city.

Approved a $60 ad for the Vicksburg Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in a souvenir booklet for a convention to be held in Vicksburg Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Proclaimed the month of October as Domestic Violence and Abuse Prevention month.

Set the kickoff for the city’s United Way fund-raiser for Thursday at the City Park Pavilion. City employees will have a lunch there with the hopes of raising $25,000 for the charity.

Allocated the remaining $3,577 in the 2000-2001 budget for the Vicksburg Airport Authority. The funds are part of the budget for the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport.

Authorized an extension of the biosolids land application program contract between Synagro Inc. and Vicksburg for the disposal of solid waste from the city sewer plant.

Approved the use of Express Personnel Services for hiring temporary city employees.

Reappointed Toni Lanford and Mary Lynn Thomas to the Vicksburg Board of Architectural Review and Jack Burrell and Jessica Williams to the Vicksburg Planning and Zoning Commission.

Executed a budget modification for the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant Program to extend the program through January. The federally funded program had been limited to one month before it was extended by state and federal offices.

Authorized advertisement for bids for playground safety surface materials, traffic management supplies and pipe and pipe fittings.

Tabled approving an agreement with Warren Yazoo Mental Health Services for police and fire department personnel.

Approved the monthly tax collections and tax sale reports, delinquent tax collection report, city marshal’s report, city sexton’s report and building inspector’s report.

Took up several personnel actions during executive session.

The board was scheduled to meet again at 4 p.m., today at City Hall Annex.