Opinion: Why SJ council should reconsider $950 million bond measure

At Tuesday’s meeting of the San Jose City Council, our representatives will consider placing a $950 million general obligation bond measure on the November ballot.

Funding would cover a variety of projects, including housing, infrastructure needs, roads and public-safety improvements. We would repay nearly $2 billion in interest and principal over the lives of the bonds. A 30-year property tax levy averaging $16.18 per $100,000 of assessed valuation of all real estate in San Jose would fund the $50 million annual repayments. Initial polling showed the measure barely reaching the two-thirds voter support required for passage.

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Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility (CFR) consistently advocates that the city focus on providing cost-effective core services, sometimes referred to as “the 3 Ps” (public safety, parks and pavement). CFR maintains that little else should be funded until San Jose provides the robust core services residents deserve. The original bond proposal did that: It proposed reducing the backlog of deferred park maintenance by using bond proceeds to replace aging park infrastructure. Over the course of review, it became a roads and public-safety measure before morphing into the current $950 million behemoth nicknamed the OmniBond. CFR has significant concerns about the proposal.

First, using long-term bond financing for assets that won’t last 30 years is never a good idea. Many of the OmniBond projects will be distant memories when the final payment is made in 2057.

Second, the measure proposes funding street repair, public-safety enhancements, flood-mitigation efforts, affordable housing and “additional infrastructure needs.” We see “additional infrastructure needs” as opening Pandora’s Box to the council’s pet projects. Indeed, proposals already have surfaced suggesting using proceeds for Municipal Stadium work and supporting the San Jose Light Tower project.

Third, the proposal includes a “Citizens Oversight Committee,” yet such committees typically provide only the illusion of oversight. For example, the oversight committee for the 2016 San Jose Measure B quarter-cent sales tax has not yet issued its first annual report on the $30 million-a-year measure.

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Finally, we are mired in a significant housing crisis. At its peak, the tax levy would add nearly $275 to the annual property tax bills of median-priced homes, putting home ownership further out of the reach of many residents. Undoubtedly, landlords will pass the increase along to tenants, further squeezing residents struggling to afford living in San Jose.

The city could accomplish the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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