Since September, Moore County Commissioner Tim Lea has been circulating a PowerPoint presentation documenting (1) how much smarter he is than EVERYONE ELSE in Moore County and (2) how — supposedly — his colleagues in county government are ignoring his warnings and are leading the county toward financial armageddon. One of our faithful readers — in the thick of things in county government — thinks we all need to know a few extra important facts that are omitted from the good commissioner’s presentation, which can be found HERE.
On page 7 of the presentation, Lea shows the 2007 county debt at $55,514,201 ($47,607,895 for general government and $7,906,306 for utilities). The presentation neglects to inform you that the various components of this debt are structured to be paid off over a 20 to 40 year period. The debt is not being called in ANY time soon. The utilities portion of this debt is being paid off totally by consumers paying their water & sewer bills each month.
On page 10, Lea cites the total county debt, as of August 1, at $222,385,045. My county source again points out that Lea neglects to mention that this debt is structured to be paid off over a 30-40 year period — something that is very manageable, given the current state of county finances. Lea includes interest payments in this total debt projection, which would decrease dramatically if the county pays off these obligations early — which my source says is a very strong possibility. Again, Lea includes utility debt — totaling $63,986,769 — in this projection. THAT will be paid off via water & sewer payments over a 30 to 40 year period.
On slide 13, Lea points out that the county’s debt obligations have increased by $166,870, 754 over four years. AGAIN, he neglects to mention that a good chunk of that money is (1) related to school bonds APPROVED by voters and (2) utility debt to be paid off by consumer water bill. Also, this debt is structured to be paid off over the next couple of decades. Lea is also including the full interest amounts on the assumption that the county will not pay the obligations off early. Again, my county source says early payoff is a strong possibility, so taxpayers will save on interest payments.
Slide 30 details financial information on the new public safety complex — one of Lea’s favorite whipping boys. Lea has criticized using limited obligation bonds, which do not require voter approval. Lea favors general obligation bonds, which require voter approval and come with better rates than limited obligation bonds. My county source says voters should prefer limited obligation bonds. They only put the project — in this case, the new building — at risk. A general obligation bond brings the taxing power of the county into play — almost guaranteeing a tax increase should the county face tight budgetary times during the bond’s life. Slide 30 projects more than $12 million in interest payments on the bonds — again assuming that there will be NO early payoff on the 30 to 40 year obligation.
Slides 65 to 68 are devoted solely to Lea’s personal and professional biography. (Ah, modesty.) That gives this presentation more of a personal or political flavor. My county source points out that this presentation was prepared by an on-the-clock county government staffer.
Gee. A smart guy like Tim ought to be able to make a few phone calls and do a PowerPoint presentation all by himself.