With skyrocketing increases in local debt, it is only natural to examine the current order of things.
For most types of debt (read bonds) to be issued, a local entity must hold a bond election. Often, the turnout at these elections is low, and it only takes a simple majority to pass a bond proposal so it is easy to see how this could contribute to rising debt. But a bigger problem is that there is little, if any, information on a ballot that tells voters much in the way of: how much debt an entity already owes; how much the debt breaks out to on a per person basis; the existing and new tax rates; and how much more the average taxpayer will have to pay.
And yet, we ask voters to make intelligent decisions without providing them with these critical pieces of information, and then wonder why local debt is soaring.
Well, a new report from the Comptroller’s office, Your Money and Educational Debt, seeks to change all that. The report recommends that the Legislature bring more ballot transparency to bond elections by incorporating key debt-related information on the ballot to ensure greater fiscal control through the people.
In addition, the Comptroller recommends that the Legislature incentivizes school districts to use the most cost-effective construction and design models to lower costs; to encourage dual-use facility arrangements across school districts; to require school districts to disclose cost and details of all construction and renovation projects, including an inventory of existing facilities; and lastly, to give the Bond Review Board more authority to ensure better data collection on education debts.