City of Raleigh voters tomorrow will decide on a $91.8 million bond dedicated to park improvements. If passed, the new debt will necessitate a 1.72 cent increase in the property taxes of city residents.
What makes this bond referendum unique, however, is a law passed in 2013 requiring greater transparency on the ballot itself. HB 248 (now Session Law 2013-200), the “Taxpayer Debt Information Act”, requires that all bond referendums now include additional language. Prior to the law, bond referendums merely asked voters if they approved of the bond, and the only information provided was the principle amount of the bond and the general purpose for which the funds were to be used.
Thanks to the new law, however, voters will be informed on the ballot that the bonds will also require interest payments and that additional taxes will likely be required to pay off the principle and interest of the bonds.
This added measure of transparency is long-overdue, and provides voters with information vital to their decision-making. Moving forward, it would be even better if the bond referendum also included estimates of the actual interest payments so voters have an even more complete picture of the added government debt they would be incurring.
Normally, local bonds for park improvements win with overwhelming approval. It will be interesting to see if the added transparency effects support for Raleigh’s new bond.