LACONIA — Belknap County commissioners were split on whether the current generation of taxpayers should foot the bill for a new community corrections center and renovations to the current county jail, or if the youngsters of today will have to shoulder the burden in the future.
Commissioners are continuing to examine their options on structuring an $8 million bond issue for the work, with an eye to lowering the impact of payments, especially during the early years of the bond issue while the county is still paying off $1.4 million in current debt obligations.
Among the options under consideration are a bond anticipation note in which money would be borrowed as needed rather than in a lump sum, interest-only payments for the first few years of the bond issue until old debt is retired and using the county's fund balance to retire old debt while floating a 20-year bond with level payments.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) put a new option on the table during a budget work session Thursday in which he suggested bonding only $7,171,928 for the 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed community corrections center and paying for the $1.1 million in renovations to existing county jail out of general funds.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said a bond anticipation note would allow the county to borrow $5 million and $3 million later so that it wouldn't be paying as much interest.
''We don't need all that money now. It makes more sense to borrow what you need when you need it.''
He has also said he thinks that the interest-only payments for a short period of time with a 25-year bond is a good option.
When the County Convention approved the bond issue on Nov. 2, it also passed by a 12-3 vote a nonbinding recommendation introduced by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) which called for using the county's fund balance to pay off the county's current $1.4 million in debt obligations over the next three years and having a 20-year bond issue with level payments of $530,000 per year over the life of the bond, which he said would save $1 million in interest costs.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) has pointed out that Gallagher's proposal would mean that the county would be obligated to $60,000 more in debt service payments per year ($530,000) than the level suggested by commissioners ($470,000), which would mean that the county would have $1.2 million less over those 20 years for funding other programs.
Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) opposed Gallagher's plan, saying that he favors a 25-year bond because it spreads the costs over a longer period of time and to future generations of taxpayers.
The same issue over the length of the bond issue came up Thursday with Taylor saying he favors a longer period of time.
"Spread it out and let the youngsters pay it," he said in reply to Burchell's comment that a shorter period where ''we feel some pain right now" is better.
Taylor said the elderly taxpayers of the county should not be seeing tax hikes to pay for a facility which will provide services to future generations, to which Burchell replied that future taxpayers might be in worse financial straits then today's elderly.
Commissioners are expected to review scenarios of what would happen under the competing plans when they meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Belknap County Complex.
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