We are writing to state our positions and make public some of the facts about the $50-million bond package the majority of the Madison County Board of Supervisors passed February 6, over opposing votes from the two of us.
On Thursday before the vote, both of us were told for the first time about a $50-million bond package for new construction that board president Tim Johnson intended to put to vote on Monday, two business days later. He and the other two members of the Board of Supervisors had already committed to vote for the package and already knew what was in it, because they had been involved in creating the package.
The package was presented to the two of us as a complete whole, with no opportunity given for input as to the plan of work, the cost of construction, the means of financing or the means of paying back the new debt. We were not told how one road, never previously discussed by our board at all, even got on the list of the top nine projects in the entire county supposedly worthy of being built with the new $50 million in debt.
And we were never given an explanation of why we would issue 20-year debt, and then use $5 million of the borrowed money for ordinary road maintenance, not for new construction of new roads. Madison County is about to borrow against our children’s credit to do road work that has a realistic life span at the most of five to 10 years — the roads will be worn out again 10 years or more before we have paid back the money we borrowed to fix them.
Of course, because this plan was sprung on us only two working days before it was to be voted on, there was no opportunity for the citizens of our county to have any input on it. And there was no opportunity for the people — including two of their elected supervisors — to change it by reducing the overall debt that it calls for and choosing the genuinely important road construction projects needed in our county.
Here is the effect of the February 6 vote:
• Debt load of Madison County: To be doubled.
• $13.5 million in other projects for which the county had already committed to borrow and build: Ignored.
• Critical needs of upgraded fire stations and trucks, a juvenile detention center and new jail space: Ignored.
We are told that “growth” will pay for the first $25 million in new debt, but have no explanation from anyone about how we will pay for the second $25 million in new debt — do we hope for even more “growth”, will there be a reduction in other budgeted items, or will there have to be an increase in tax rates?
Reasonable people can disagree on what roads to build and how much money to borrow. But when a small group decides that the taxpayers need to borrow $50 million, they should at least do it openly and after public consideration. Elected officials should be given the opportunity to agree or disagree when it is still meaningful, when the plan is being built, not when it is a finished product.
And not after some select few are allowed to participate in the process while others are purposely excluded.
Doug Jones and Andy Taggart, Madison County Supervisors for Districts One and Three
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