Q: Bottom line, why should I vote for these bonds?
A: The Charlotte that we enjoy today is due to the investments we made in the past. The city we will enjoy in the future will come from investment we make today. Meeting Charlotte’s infrastructure needs is vital to our region’s health and sustaining our reputation as a great place to live, work and play. To support a better Charlotte, vote “yes” for all three bond referenda (transportation, housing and neighborhoods) on this year’s ballot.
Q: Beyond the specific projects that the bonds will fund, are there other more intangible benefits to a “yes” vote?
A: Charlotte is one of the few cities during the economic downturn that continued to grow and add jobs. We’re in that position because of the city’s strong fiscal and capital improvement policy over the long term. To continue to meet the needs of our current citizens and provide opportunities for rehabilitation and expansion, we have to continue to invest and improve our infrastructure.
Additionally, projects that the bonds will fund will generate new residential and commercial development and stimulate job growth.
Q: Will my taxes go up with a “yes” vote for the bonds?
A: No. The financing costs for these bonds are included in the city budget for this year, meaning “yes” votes will not result in higher taxes or negatively affect our AAA bond rating. The city dedicates a portion of property and sales tax receipts and other revenues to its capital program. This cash flow enables the city to cover debt service on the life of the bonds until the debt is paid off.
Q: If the bonds are defeated, will my taxes go down?
Q: Is the Charlotte Streetcar Project part of the bonds campaign?
A: No. The city’s bond referenda will not fund development or operation of the streetcar, Blue Line Extension or any other Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) project. However, the passing of the 2016 city bonds will provide funds to improve pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist access to the CATS Blue Line Extension.
Q: How were the projects and dollar amounts of the bond packages determined?
A: The city uses a capital planning and funding process that charts infrastructure and improvement needs as well as opportunities to provide city investment to leverage private investment throughout the city.
Issuing bonds is the primary mechanism for funding capital infrastructure needs in Charlotte and other cities and counties across the country. Using all available criteria, city staff organizes the projects and dollar amounts into bond packages that go before voters approximately every two years. The dollar amount of this bond package is supported by the tax increase approved by council in June 2013.
In 2013, the city of Charlotte projected capital investment needs for the next decade. This year’s bond referendum is the second of four projected bond referenda over eight years as identified in the Community Investment Plan (CIP). Some CIP projects are funded by Certificates of Participation (COPs) and do not require voter approval.
Residents can find information on all projects on the city of Charlotte’s website: www.charlottefuture.com. Each year during the city’s budgeting process, staff makes a proposal for infrastructure work and related costs, including debt service to issue the necessary bonds. City Council approves the scope of work and whether to place bonds on the ballot.
Q: What would happen if the bonds don’t win?
A: If the bonds are not approved, the city would have to reprioritize the bonds projects and reallocate cash flow accordingly to pay directly for some of the high-priority projects. Other city-funded projects would be put on hold such as the construction of public safety facilities. Since there would be less available funds than the bonds’ total, much of the work would be delayed for years if not decades.
Q: What are Certificates of Participation (COPs) and how is that related to the 2016 bond referendum?
A: Certificates of Participate (COPs) are a financing option that does not require voter approval. The city has far less ability and flexibility to issue COPs as a financing mechanism for all of its infrastructure financing needs. COPs are traditionally used for “vertical” development (i.e., buildings and facilities) while bonds are used for infrastructure development. The success of COPs projects is dependent on the passage of bonds projects. For example: The construction costs for the six police division stations and land purchase for future fire stations are funded by COPs debt.
Q: Voters approved city bonds in 2014. Why does the city need approval for bonds in 2016?
A: Streets, intersections, curbs, gutters and other facilities need constant maintenance and improvement to operate safely and efficiently. City Council and staff use a master planning process to address needs, and part of the funding model involves tying specific projects to specific bond packages. The bonds on this year’s ballot are designated for prioritized projects that will need to happen over the next several years.
Q: What measures are used to determine which intersections to improve and when?
A: The City’s Department of Transportation uses data such as levels of congestion and accident rates to rank intersections for improvement.
Q: What determines the size of the bond package?
A: City staff makes a recommendation for City Council’s consideration as part of the annual budgeting process. This year, the amounts for the street, housing and neighborhood improvement bonds were set based on infrastructure needs identified in the Community Investment Plan (CIP).
Q: What is the timeframe for constructing the projects and issuing the bonds to pay for them?
A: Bonds are issued as projects are being constructed in order to minimize the financing costs during the construction period. Some projects are public-private collaborations (such as development of certain housing communities), meaning the timing will largely depend upon the specific project.
Q: Some of the roads, intersections and neighborhoods that are getting bond monies seem fine the way they are. Why do we need to renovate or improve them?
A: Sometimes needed repairs are not apparent to the untrained eye. City engineers monitor our infrastructure carefully and have detailed, long-range plans for maintenance and improvement. Whether a private residence or a city street, the process is ongoing and becomes more expensive if not properly and diligently managed.
Q: What is the Cross Charlotte Multi-Use Trail (XCLT) and how is it different from the existing Mecklenburg County parks greenway system?
A: The Cross Charlotte Multi-Use Trail will connect existing greenways and trailways across Mecklenburg County spanning from York County in the south to Cabarrus County in the north. Once completed, the 26-mile trail will be one of the longest urban trailways in the Carolinas. The 2016 bond dollars will allow the city to continue planning, design and land acquisition and to begin construction for the connections within the city limits.
Q: Why can’t you say specifically how the affordable housing bond will be spent?
A: The $15 million housing bond will go to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). City Council established the fund in 2001 to provide financing for affordable housing construction. An advisory board oversees the fund and makes decisions about how grants are made, based on requests from public and/or private sector developers.