Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Woodlands Bond Proposals 2009 - League of Women's Voters Debate

Tonight, a debate was conducted at the Association building on Lake Woodlands to debate the FOR and AGAINST viewpoints. This is a summary of that debate.

Adrian Heath ( presented the opposition, while Joel Deretchin (TWA Association President) and Don Glennell (Texas Rush Soccer Club) alternately presented the FOR.

Proposition 1
FOR - We need all three fire stations as recommended by those who have studied the detailed criteria to achieve a 5 minute response  time average. Currently, certain areas of Indian Springs, Panther Creek and Cochran's Crossing have insufficient emergency response time. Indian Springs has an average of 8 minutes and Creekside Park an average of 15 minutes. In the two additional minutes after the target fire response time, a fire grows three times its size.  There is hope of saving a heart attack victim  after  four minutes, whereas all bets are off after about six minutes. Time is very critical to safety. Our emergency services are lacking and we need to improve them now. The third station is falling apart and structurally unsound. It will likely cost more to repair than rebuild it. We have put 1/2 million band-aid dollars into it already. It is time to replace it.  Additionally we seek an ISO rating of "one" here. The Savings in insurance for the residents will offset the investments. We have been told that we will achieve an ISO rating of "one" with the improvements through these bonds. Part of our community does not even meet ISO level two status currently.  This will fix that problem. Association representatives have analyzed and reached agreement to the necessity of these stations. Financial analysts have determined that the bonds are fiscally responsible and make sense in this economic climate. 

AGAINST - let's pay as you go. Make the Township fiscally responsible and squeeze existing funds. We are in an economic decline. Let's defer some projects and spent thrifty. Get our financial house in order. Wait to do these projects until we have fully elected residents on the board. Put the issue in their hands because they will be more fiscally responsible.  Maybe we could even do as we did before - have volunteer firefighters. Let's have some better cost conscious ideas. 

Proposition 2
FOR - we have an urgent need for an additional  sports field. Our children are not able to participate in some sports activities such as soccer for the lack of sufficient amenities. We need to support our children and their quality of life. A 12 year old cannot wait three years for us to start such a park project. We have favorable financial rates now and the costs of constructing our assets is low due to the current economic environment.  Some of these parks are required by contract.

AGAINST - we can cut expenses and pay for these parks out of our general fund. Prudent spending is necessary to achieve the quality we want. Again, defer these projects until the new resident elected board is in place.  We need to trim the fat. Look at who is behind the coalition who is sending the leaflets out to the residents. They have special interests and have something to gain via approval of these bonds.  Some sponsors are outside of The Woodlands. They build parks and fire stations. An example of an excess expenditure - a check was written for a domain name; it cost us over $1000. You can get a domain name for $18. There are many of these unnecessarily extravagant expenses, some in the 100's of thousands of dollars. Fix that and then start thinking about spending more. Pay as you go is the only prudent way to go.

Proposition 3   
FOR - this is just a no-nonsense way of distributing debt over 20 years. It is a very fiscally responsible proposal. It provides a means to have those living in your house after  you leave to assume some of the financial responsibility for these proposed and completed 20-30+ year assets. The bonds will not increase taxes (none of these three will). This particular proposal is only a refinancing proposal. It will save us money in the long run. For all of these propositions, when we require additional funds in a pay-as-you-go scenario, we will have to raise taxes. This proposal protects us from interest rate increases and allows to maintain our constant annual assessment rate of 32.8 cents per $100 assessment. We expect the bonds to be 4.5 to 5.5 percent loans. If we pay for this out of our annual budget, taxes will be much higher!

AGAINST - let's pay off the debt and not leave it for those after us. We pay a lot of interest. The best way to go is use the general fund. If after we have cut excessive spending and we need more money, then raise the taxes. The bonds will not solve all of our problems, whether  of safety or keeping children off the street and out of trouble. Get out of debt, put our financial house in order. Spending thousands of dollars for songs on the fountain at Waterway does nothing for me. It is for the businesses on the waterway.

For some present, the information presented was nothing new. For others, this was an opportunity to ask questions and perhaps see "two sides of the coin". Everyone wants prudent spending and most people see there are opportunities to improve financial efficiency. However, many residents also see that safety and our children are extremely important. So is the stability of our tax rates. What may seem conservative to one person may seem like just prudent spending to another. What seems like exorbitant spending to one person may seem like the norm to another. Bring those two thinking processes together and you have diversity of financial thought. Either way, the right way seems to be that which takes care of the issues while keeping a lid on taxes. These proposals are part of a five year plan (and longer) to keep our tax rate at 32.8 cents per $100 of assessment. If that is accomplished, the rest can be managed with the budget process and detailed financial thriftiness. Let's have the bonds and let's have prudent spending. Let's not get the two confused. We need progress and we need for it to be aggressively pursued, without undue strain on the resident's pocketbook.

Please vote FOR the bonds.

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