Juneau City Hall shown in this Monday, March 30, photo won’t be the site of a pair of upcoming city meetings. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau City Hall shown in this Monday, March 30, photo won’t be the site of a pair of upcoming city meetings. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Bonds are a legitimate tool to build necessary infrastructure

We resort to bonding because taxes from other sources are insufficient to fund capital projects.

  • By Bruce Botelho
  • Tuesday, July 14, 2020 11:07am
  • Opinion

Jerry Nankervis’ homily against bonded indebtedness July 8, 2020, as a legitimate tool to build necessary infrastructure appears to be a misguided missile attack.

[Stay the course, bonds aren’t the answer]

He notes that “our bonded debt [over the last several years] decreased from a record high to the much more manageable and appropriate levels we see today.” He credits this reduction to the last three mayors who understood that they “should be extremely careful spending taxes that are collected from our citizens.”

But, in the words of Paul Harvey, there is the “rest of the story.” First, mayors do not control whether bonds are issued. Second, more recent Assemblies were able to ride the wave and avoid new bond issues because so many of the major community investments had already been addressed. Between 2003 and 2019, the residents of the City and Borough of Juneau authorized $220 million in general obligation bonds. Of that amount, roughly $177 million was for school construction — renovations at JDHS and several elementary schools, and construction of TMHS, to name a few. Under state law most of these projects were to be reimbursed from the State of Alaska at up to 70%. Unfortunately, for several years the state has failed to fund these reimbursements, causing the burden to fall only on local residents. Nevertheless, CBJ has been steadily and dramatically reducing its indebtedness.

The remaining $42 million in debt represents investment in Aurora Harbor, the airport terminal, Capital Transit, Eaglecrest, Centennial Hall and the Dimond Aquatic Center.

No mayor has the ability to be “free-wheeling” with bond monies. Each general bond authorization must be first approved by a majority of the sitting assembly and by a majority of the voting electorate. We resort to bonding because, generally speaking, taxes from other sources in any given year are insufficient to fund multi-million-dollar capital projects. This is not unlike the choice homeowners make: Either wait many years to accumulate enough money to purchase a home (while having to continue to rent) or take out a mortgage that allows you to immediately occupy your home and pay off the mortgage over many years. By casting a ballot on a bond authorization, voters directly balance their interests in fair taxation and community need for the proposed project.

Ironically, Nankervis notes that “there is plenty of spending to do on our current infrastructure, like repairing the leaky roof at Mendenhall River School, for example.”

Touché. The Assembly is considering whether to ask voters to approve a $15 million bond package that includes money for roof repair at several of our schools. The Assembly will likely conduct a public hearing on the proposal at its Aug. 3, 2020 regular meeting. And, if the measures are put on the fall ballot, the voters will decide whether it is time to invest in the proposed projects.

• Bruce Botelho is a former mayor of Juneau and current member of the City and Borough of Juneau Economic Stabilization Task Force. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

More in Opinion

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Mist from Nugget Falls has a prism-like effect in September 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Multiple vehicles line up at the entrance of Waste Management’s Capitol Disposal Landfill in Lemon Creek Monday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
The absence of economic incentives to reduce waste

This week, Waste Management, the Texas based company that owns and operates… Continue reading

Over 200 people attended LunaFest (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: JPCC owes a huge debt of gratitude to two LunaFest guest speakers

LunaFest 2023 was JPCC’s most successful fundraising event ever.

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Education funding is complicated and political

At a recent Alaska State Senate Education Committee hearing at the Capitol,… Continue reading

At Wednesday evening’s special Assembly meeting, the Assembly appropriated nearly $4 million toward funding a 5.5% wage increase for all CBJ employees along with a 5% increase to the employer health contribution. According to City Manager Rorie Watt, it doesn't necessarily fix a nearly two decade-long issue of employee retention concerns for the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Assessment needs additional oversight

A win in dealing with City and Borough of Juneau is when… Continue reading

This photo shows the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Deja vu for the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

Three new alternatives don’t go far enough.

In this Nov. 29, 2018 photo, clouds swirl over Douglas Island. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The Roadless Rule is a misnomer for what’s really happening in the Tongass

The Roadless Rule, as currently comprised with an exception provision, works.

Faith Myers stands at the doors of API. (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Psychiatric patient care report could be catalyst for improvements

Will good suggestions get lost in state bureaucracy?

Most Read