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Roanoke can safely increase borrowing
The financial staff’s report is intended to help Roanoke officials set priorities on long-term capital projects.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
The Ashley Plantation neighborhood, with $400,000-plus homes on a golf course in Botetourt County, contains signs like these along Greenfield Street, because a convicted sex offender’s wife is building a home in the community. The husband, Calvert Anthony Thompson, has a history of sexually assaulting young women but was released from prison in June and has reconciled with his wife of 20 years. ]
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Roanoke financial officials’ latest look at the numbers show the city has room to borrow more money for school improvements, fire stations and for the culvert needed to bring a passenger rail station downtown.
They’ll tell the city council Monday that it can afford to add those projects to its construction spending plan for the next five years, if it chooses to, said finance director Ann Shawver.
The city’s finance staff updates the rolling five-year plan every year, looking at several measures to see how much the city can borrow. Those measures include capping interest and debt repayments at 10 percent of total spending and making sure total debt doesn’t exceed 4 percent of the city’s tax base.
Their latest look shows the city could borrow $37 million more over the next five years than the $98 million already planned. They’re not proposing the city go that far, though — instead they suggest the city could safely plan on borrowing an extra $29.9 million.
For next year, that means the city could borrow an extra $1.35 million, on top of $18.5 million already planned, in order to start design and engineering work on the railroad station culvert and improvements to the fire stations on Memorial Avenue, Crystal Spring Avenue and Noble Avenue.
For the two years after that, the city could afford to borrow an extra $7 million for the Round Hill Elementary School expansion project.
It could also afford to borrow $5.5 million to build the culvert replacement, finishing that project. The culvert, which redirects Lick Run along the current rail tracks downtown, needs to be replaced because it isn’t strong enough to support the new tracks that passenger trains will need.
Over the three years beginning July 1, 2014, the city also could borrow an additional $16 million for the fire station projects.
The update, and the suggestions for projects the city could undertake, are meant to help the city council set priorities, Shawver said.
The city’s current financial plans called for a $1 million-a-year jump in borrowing for parks and recreation to $2.5 million, to start in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016, as well as a big $6.9 million bill that year for work on the Franklin Road bridge.
Looking ahead for the first time to the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, the financial staff’s review projects a drop in borrowing for bridge repair work, but a rise in spending for the library master plan.
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