Several of us have been watching the developments surrounding the proposed improvements at the Reif Center for some time now. I want to assure everyone that we all highly value the Reif Center and what it brings to our community. So why the title? I am afraid that if things do not go well, some of us may begin to resent the Reif Center. Let me explain.
Although there have been some promises of donations, the majority of the money is likely to come from bonds. Bond is just another word for loan. See Monday’s article for information on this. (http://grandrapidsvoice.com/2014/01/20/what-are-bonds/). The most recent information which I have indicate that $3.9 million of this may come from the state. I’ll refer you to Rep. Anzelc’s letter to the editor this week: Reif Performing Arts Center: My 2014 bonding priority – Grand Rapids Herald-Review: Letters To Editor.
As most of you will remember, Tom Anzelc was instrumental in the passing of the Omnibus E12 bill into law, one of the provisions of which was the allowance of school districts to issue bonds (borrow) up to $11 million without having a public referendum. In other words, without allowing the public to have a direct say in whether or not to borrow money which the taxpayers are required to pay back.
The total bill for the renovations is advertised to be around $7.8 million, with $3.9million coming from the state, and $500,000 from donations. What about the other $3.4 million? Where will it come from? You see, I am afraid that at least a sizable portion of this money will be from school district bonding, and that taxpayers will be forced to repay the loan at some point, along with the interest. This added payment, in conjunction with our already high taxes, may just be enough to cause some people to begin resenting the Reif Center as the focus for such a large amount to be borrowed.
If this comes to pass, it would be tremendously unfortunate, as the Reif Center is among the best features of the whole Grand Rapids area. It would be a shame if people began to hate it for driving us so far into debt that we resent the payments every time we have to make them.
We need to find out exactly how this is to be funded, and if most of it will come from borrowing, maybe there are some other questions we need to ask.
Foremost of these questions is: Do we need to borrow money to make all of these improvements now? Would it be better to make some modest improvements now, and put the rest off for a couple of years? That would reduce the amount which we would potentially have to borrow, while giving time for more donors to step forward with gifts to pay for a portion of these improvements.
I fear that with Grand Rapids already more than $60 million in debt (https://grandrapidsvoice.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/researchdocument.pdf) that further increasing this debt will cause people to not only hate the debt, but also what the debt was accrued for.
If you agree, tell Rep. Anzelc that we all appreciate the Reif Center, but would like him to explore other avenues to funding this project rather than putting us further in debt.