The funding for the Reif Center has been included in this year’s bonding bill. As a reminder, there have been promises of $3.3 million from local sources, and the remaining $3.9 million dollars for the renovations is what is included in the bonding bill.
I saw the article announcing this a few days ago, but it was not clear if the money was to come from the surplus, from revenue bonds (which would be paid for from revenue generated by the Reif Center), or from general obligation bonds (called GO bonds, these are the responsibility of the taxpayers to pay for).
Since this was not clear, and since the article listed Rep. Anzelz as the prime mover behind the request for funding, I sent him an e-mail asking him to detail exactly where the money would come from, thinking that he would be more than happy to share this information with me as he was described in the article as being “ecstatic” about the approval of this funding.
His first response in answer to my question was rather ambiguous, and described the typical procedure rather than the specific origin of the $3.9 million. I had the impression that he was reluctant to give me the specific answer, so I asked again, in simpler terms. After a day’s wait, I received a one word answer to my query as to whether the money was to come from GO bonds. His answer was one word: “YES!” I do not know why he chose to capitalize the whole word and follow it by an exclamation point, but I had my answer.
So what does this mean? Unfortunately, most people who have never been told of how all of this works only know that this money comes from somewhere, but they don’t know from where.
As a brief explanation for those who missed my earlier article explaining them, GO bonds are issued when the politicians want to spend money today which we do not yet have. Rather than waiting for the money to be raised otherwise through revenue and donations, the politician typically wants to complete the project as soon as possible, usually because there is an upcoming election, and advocates for bonding, but seldom reminds the constituents that they will be the ones paying the interest and the principle.
I have likened this before to having someone give you a nice, new car for Christmas, then handing you the payment book as well, trying to tell you that it is a gift, but you will be the one who has to make the payments. They probably also neglected to ask you in advance if you wanted, or could even afford, these payments.
That’s kind of what the situation with the renovation of the Reif Center reminds me of. We were not asked if we could afford to go even further in debt. We were not asked if we would rather do a smaller renovation project this year, and save the rest for later, after the money had been raised. We were simply put on the hook for not only the cost, but the interest on the bonds as well. By the way, we can thank Rep. Anzelc by voting for him again, can’t we? At least, I think that this was his intention.
Let there be no doubt, the Reif Center is a very valuable asset for our area, and I do not advocate for the avoidance of needed repairs and renovations, but I think that most of us would agree that it would have been much more economical and fiscally responsible to put off a portion of the work until the money could be raised otherwise. This may not have helped Rep. Anzelc’s career, but it would have been better for us in the long run. How much debt do we really want to pass on to our children? How much debt and interest do we want to be saddled with, when without this debt and debt service we would have a better chance of our taxes being lowered in the future?
I don’t know how much good talking about this will do, because politicians will be politicians, and as long as we allow the free spenders, who have no qualms about borrowing money on our behalf to further their own careers, to stay in office, funding will happen, bonds will be issued, and we will continue to sink further and further into debt.
At least they haven’t yet decided to tear down the Reif Center like they did so many other of our former landmarks. We can still enjoy it, though now we have to pay to attend and pay the interest on the bond. Thanks, Mr. Anzelc, I’m sure you will be remembered in November.