Over the next few years, the town of Garner will build a three-gym recreation center downtown. It will turn a former medical office building into a police station and either renovate its current town hall or build a new one. It also plans a number of park improvements, including the construction of restrooms at one park.
In other words, Garner plans to soon invest millions of dollars in bricks and mortars.
On March 12, voters gave the town permission to borrow $35.7 million for the above projects and a handful of others. To repay the debt, the Garner Town Council might have to raise the property-tax rate by a couple of pennies. But to their credit – and to the benefit of taxpayers – the town council will also create a savings account, with the money going to debt retirement.
Specifically, the town council will put a percentage of annual growth in the tax base into the savings account. That will keep any required tax increase to a minimum. It’s a sound idea and perhaps a factor in the overwhelming approval of the bond measures.
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Now we’d like to suggest that the town council create another savings account – one that will help maintain all of the buildings that Garner will construct with the bond dollars. That too would be a good idea.
Some years ago now, our neighbors in Johnston County embarked on an aggressive school-building campaign that put the county’s children in modern classrooms. But a wise board member routinely complained during annual budget preparations that the board was setting aside no money to maintain all of its new buildings.
In Garner, the recreation center will one day need a need roof; so will the police station and town hall. Also, those buildings will one day need new heating and cooling systems, coats of paint and other maintenance needs.
The Garner Town Council has a history of financial prudence. And it would be prudent now to begin saving today for the inevitable maintenance needs of all of the new brick and mortar that’s about to go up in Garner.