Fayetteville to Seek Voter Approval for Bond Package in November Ballot
Fayetteville voters will be asked in the November election to approve a bond package that would address public safety, infrastructure and affordable housing in the city.
The city council unanimously approved putting the bonds on a voter referendum at Monday’s scheduled regular meeting.
The bonds would be valued at $97 million, according to city filings, but the city could decrease that number over the next few months as the council finalizes the details of the package.
The amount, however, cannot exceed the amount approved Monday before the November election.
Any amount approved by voters would require a property tax increase, city officials said at a special council meeting late last month devoted to discussing the bonds.
“Voters could give us their opinion,” the city manager said. Doug Hewett said at the April meeting. “If they say ‘Yes,’ then of course we would have to raise the tax rate to meet the debt payments that the bond would generate.”
Residents will be able to vote on each area – public safety, infrastructure and housing – separately, as each will have their own share of the $97 million maximum.
“(The referendum) gives the council full authority, and it also gives the voters and ratepayers of the City of Fayetteville the power to tell us if this is something they want us to do in those areas,” said Hewitt.
Funds from the bonds would not be associated with any federal funds the city has received from recent federal legislation, such as the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.
Deputy City Manager Jay Toland said one-time funds from ARPA to be used for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic have already been earmarked for various city projects.
“It’s not like we’re going to take these projects or this amount here and then replace it with ARPA money,” he said. “It’s (for) additional needs apart from that.”
Funds from the bonds would be used for more recurring expenses, according to city officials.
“Despite all the federal money we have and the very careful financial planning we do here as a city, we find that we have capital needs, which far exceed our funding capacity,” Hewett said.
“To address significant public safety, unfunded needs, and not to mention potentially housing and affordable housing issues that the council wants to take on, we would need a different method of funding.”
If the bonds are approved by voters, it would result in higher property taxes in Fayetteville.
With every increased property tax penny, the city could fund $1.45 million in annual bail repayment costs, Toland said.
If the $97 million maximum is finally on the ballot in November, it would require an annual property tax increase of just under 4 cents, based on a presentation Toland made to city council.
Property taxes are calculated by dividing the value of the house or property by 100, then multiplying by the increase in cents.
A $200,000 home, for example, would see a one-time annual property tax increase of about $80 under the 4-cent scenario, or a monthly increase of just under $7. If the total amount of the bond decreases, the burden on the taxpayer will also decrease.
If voters approve the bonds, the tax increase won’t happen until the start of fiscal year 2024 next summer, Toland said.
Other than the bond issue, there will be no tax increases in the city’s upcoming budget for the next fiscal year, Hewett said.
“There will be no proposed tax rate increase in my budget which I will present to you in May,” he told the board at the April bond meeting. “There will be no proposed increases in the budget for public transit, solid waste or stormwater.”
The city had already considered an increase in solid waste chargesCarolina Public Press reported earlier this year.
How each area will be funded
The maximum amount that could be approved for public safety, infrastructure and housing is $60 million, $25 million and $12 million respectively.
Preliminary plans for the public safety portion are to build and renovate various fire stations across the city and build a police call center that would cost over $30 million.
Hewett said the call center “is a must.”
Fayetteville Fire Chief Mike Hill said fire station locations are based on need, according to various data collected by the Fayetteville Fire Department.
The $60 million would not cover all of the construction, however. The details of the bond-funded projects will be determined over the next few months before the referendum is tabled with the Board of Elections later this summer.
The $25 million infrastructure portion would cover new sidewalks, intersection improvements, new bike lanes and street repaving.
The remaining $12 million would be used to provide and rehabilitate multi-family and single-family housing in the city. It would also fund “loan programs and other financial assistance” for housing-related costs, according to city documents.
The housing funds within the bonds would be used to benefit people with low and middle incomes. Details on how this will be defined have yet to be determined.
At the April bond meeting, when the city council approved an additional portion of housing, the mayor of Fayetteville Mitch Colvin cited a previous city study, when defending housing funds, that showed Fayetteville was 20,000 units short of workforce housing.