In a climate where there is economic instability around the world, our country’s crushing debt is over $16 TRILLION and climbing, and American cities are declaring bankruptcy, Arkansans have real reason to be concerned when our state and local governments are all getting into the act and handing our children and grandchildren even more debt to add to our record debt. Arkansas’s state and local debt load is already nearing 12% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a debt burden of over $4,300 for every man, woman, and child in the state, and probably much more when you factor in unfunded pension liabilities. This is unsustainable.
Keeping that in mind, the City of Springdale, Arkansas must be tone deaf to think that now is a good time to take on an additional $71 million of debt, and in a special election, no less. This has become the standard operating procedure for governments at every level around the state. WIth a busy and distracted population, they count on most people being unaware of these “special” elections which add more taxes and debt to the 95% of citizens who are not even aware there is a special election. The latest one is scheduled for August 14, 2012 in the City of Springdale.
It all sounds innocent, mind you. The August 14 election is for road improvements, fire department improvements, and park improvements. Who doesn’t support that? We ALL want improved roads and parks and properly funded fire departments. But wait. That is not the real issue on the ballot. The real question for voters is this: Is debt the best way to accomplish that? At the very least, people should be aware of the facts before they simply fall for the spin that “this does not raise anyone’s taxes.”
Any time you see the word “bonds” on a ballot, automatically read, “DEBT.” Before you just go vote “for roads,” keep these fun facts in mind:
- If this is voted down, the sky will not fall. The City will simply find ways to fund true necessities and live within its means, just as the rest of us must do.
- The City of Springdale still has several years left to pay off their existing debts.
- The ballot language is vague about what exactly they want to buy with our credit card, but maybe we can’t afford a beautiful new trail system or park or fire truck right now, as much as they would be nice to have.
- The ballot language is pretty broad here: “Collections of the Tax not necessary to pay bonds will be used for other lawful purposes.” Are we giving them a blank check?
- Buying nice new stuff with the public’s credit card means eventually needing more tax dollars to maintain the new stuff.
- A vote for more debt means using up valuable tax dollars to pay the interest to repay that debt instead of paying for necessities like roads and fire departments. The necessities are affordable with the existing tax revenue and actually will be much cheaper if we simply pay as we go.
- Once you begin a cycle of using debt to “get the money faster,” you start a vicious cycle of debt. Is it smart to use debt as a way of life to fund city operations and leave our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab?
The best electorate is an informed electorate. If more debt is fine with you, do nothing. If not, then be sure to get out to vote and bring as many people as you can with you to help stop this debt. YOU still have the power to stop the debt cycle, so take advantage of your opportunity to vote.