Dr. Inglefield and I were at the Green Park association meeting Monday night. I made a miscalculation in my figures, compounding instead of amortizing the numbers in a comment I made, but it is a fact that when interest rates rise people associated with Hickory will pay more taxes to pay off these proposed bonds.
I reverse engineered the (amortization) numbers the city has been willing to put forth and came up with an Interest rate of a little less than 4.5% - ($21 million on $40 million debt over 20 years) - that is conservative and fair compared to the current rate of around 3%, but traditional long term interest rates have been around 6%. I made a misstatement in calculation at the meeting last night and last week (I apologize). Problem is that no one with the city has put out an actual payback schedule and they should have. Why is anyone having to calculate this? I know most aren't interested, but it is relevant.
We are currently at historical lows. Interest rates are going to rise and when they do the issuance of bonds WILL cost more money. As it stands now this will cost around $3 million per year for 20 years. At 6% that goes to around $3.5 million per year.
I have been to several meetings and watched several presentations. The City manager and others have stated that Hickory Inc. will go after this money in 4 tranches. If this passes on November 4th, Hickory Inc. is likely to start with the issuance of these bonds in 2016 and then follow in 2018, 2020, and 2022... and each time they issue these bonds, they will (their numbers) raise the property tax rate by 2-cents that year. That means 2016 - 52¢. 2018 - 54¢. 2020 - 56¢, 2022 - 58¢. That means that over the next 8 years that you will be paying 16% more in property taxes. Also, to remain revenue neutral, if property values have fallen by 8%, then you are going to have to pay 8% more starting next year, so that Catawba County and Hickory can maintain current revenues.
Also, the meetings I have been to prior to last night, the presenters presented the projects as this is what they are. Last night, we were told that these were conceptual ideas. That made me think of Nancy Pelosi telling us that we needed to pass it before we know what's in it. Pass this $61 million open credit card to us and we'll get back to you on the details.
More along that mentality was when I asked about the first $10 million to be issued. I asked about how those monies will be weighted. What percentage will be directed towards what they define as Business Park? and what percentage towards sidewalk/street infrastructure. Will it be 62.5%/37.5% like the referendums are split or could all the money go to one or the other. I was told that would be determined once this is passed.
The people of Hickory are voting upon two referendums, one for (Loosely defined) Business Park expansion and the other for (Loosely defined) Sidewalk and Street Infrastructure. These bond referendums are so vaguely worded that it is hard to pin down what money can be spent on -- and I'm not talking minutia. I'm talking Projects.
That is just the financial/numbers part of this whole thing. I'm not a salesman or a marketer, but I sure do know a sales pitch versus fiduciary responsibility towards the people you are supposed to represent. It is a hard sales pitch with very few facts and figures related to Economic Impact and real costs.
They tell you for the average person this is only $10 per month. No, this is $120 per year more than what you are already paying for a person in a $150,000 house ($750 becomes $870). Your business building assessed at $500,000 that will be $400 more ($2900) more or $1 million building $800 more ($5800). Hey that's just City of Hickory taxes. You know you double that when you pay Catawba County taxes also. This is on top of all the taxes you are already paying. So, it sure seems that you better know what is happening here and what the return on investment will be.
There were very few people at the Green Park meeting. Besides 3 council members, there were I believe nine people in the room. Last week at Hartzell Church in Ridgeview, there were around 50 people in attendance and 2 Council members.
The people in Ridgeview were completely against this proposal, because they say it does nothing to enhance their community, but they are expected to help foot the bill. They were telling the Hickory Inc. folks, 'we're talking two different languages.' Hickory Inc. folks said this is for everyone and they were told that 'the people from the Ridgeview area are not welcomed on Union Square and they won't be welcomed on the walking trails.' They laughed when they were told they could go to the lake front park and walk the Riverwalk... and unfortunately they are telling the truth and that is embarrassing here in freakin 2014.
Look where you see the Bust, I mean Boost, signs are... same ole, same ole. They move forward, but nothing changes.
There was a couple last night that said they wanted this. They moved to Green Park and they like to walk Downtown. The lady is in Real Estate. The husband said, 'what is going to be the cost if we don't do this.' Hello, None of this is going to touch Green Park. Hello, Drive up and down the one way pairs over there, out towards Long View and on 70 going towards Hildebran. If we do nothing there (like for the past generation) what is that going to look like when we get these walking trails done?
I think there does need to be investment in Hickory. I'm not automatically against Hickory Inc. proposals. They need to invest in all the quadrants, if they expect everyone to pay, and they need to be more specific about what the projects are and what their intentions are and be honest about the money. "The Sails" started at $285,000 went to $420,000 and then to (what they will admit to) $500,000 in a matter of months. What will prevent us from revisiting that scenario? The same people are in charge.
The 10,000 pound elephant in the room is Trust. If one person doesn't trust you, then that's on them. If dozens of people don't trust you, then its time for some self-reflection. If thousands of people don't trust you, then "Houston, we have a problem."
Every one of the cities that Hickory Inc. visited and have touted has a Business Improvement District Tax. That is where there is a local special assessment in specific areas and those monies are pumped back into those areas, but Hickory's Downtown has refused that and that is on them, not the people down Huffman Cove Road or Spring's Road or Highland or Westmont or Catawba Springs or wherever.
I differ from the Hickory Incsters, in that I don't think our problems are as much related to infrastructure as mindset. Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington are all thriving and it is because they are open idea/accepting communities. I went to college in both Wilmington and Charlotte. In Hickory they shut down Oktoberfest, at a time, when in the communities above they just start cranking. People that have the good time they do in Asheville would be harassed in Hickory. In Hickory they want to roll up the sidewalks after dark. They want to tell you what you can do, where and when you can do it.
These communities aren't top-down communities. I hate to say that I regret moving back here after graduating from UNC-Wilmington, but I wanted to be near my family and Hickory has changed (for the worse) in ways that I can't really relay to people who haven't been here like I have the past 48 years. I want you to remember that I was in that coveted demo when I started speaking up. I saw the issues and was that lone person crying in the wilderness.
I talk to young people and the vast majority aren't comfortable around here and it doesn't have anything to do with sidewalks... and yes there are exceptions to every rule so I'm not saying everyone.
Do I hope Hickory will change? YES... Do I want it to change? Obviously. Do I think Hickory will change? Not for at least a generation. I wouldn't be saying this, especially when I know there are people out there who will not tolerate my stance... I can accept their stance... they will not accept mine.
Come November 4th, if the bond referendum passes, the Incsters will be popping Champagne corks celebrating another victory and on the 5th they'll be looking towards the next conquest. On the other hand, if the bond referendum fails, those who don't support it won't be celebrating. They'll have to face the local Powers That Be and they know that something does need to be done and they will once again ask for a seat at the table. Will they ever get that seat at the table?
Most people try to hide their expressions... like they are in a poker match or something. I like being upfront and laying it out. I'm at a point where I've basically decided to give up. I don't see anything improving except for a select few and the people who do the bidding for them. I'm overwhelmed with survival and have come to the realization that the rat race is something I don't want any part of. You only live once and it ain't forever. I think there are many more people out here like me than most care to admit. We've got nothing to lose and many of the Baby Busters don't seem to care. They love their raw power. That doesn't bode well for the future.