Columbus voters will decide on a $1.5 billion bond issue in November

Without debate, the Columbus City Council added to its agenda Monday night and immediately rushed through a $1.5 billion bond package that is now expected to go to voters in November.

The move comes just over three years after voters approved the last billion dollars for the city’s capital improvement projects, including things like roads and bridges, underground utilities and the improvement of parks.

City officials announced Monday that $200 million of the total would be spent on housing in an effort to address the city’s housing shortage and lack of affordability.

As with the $50 million included in the 2019 package for affordable housing projects, the new order says the $200 million proceeds could be spent on both “residential and commercial structures” by “purchasing, constructing, demolishing, renovating, improving, equipping and supplying”, and “acquiring, cleaning up, testing, remediating environmental problems, extending utilities and otherwise improving” their potential sites.

In addition to housing finance, the loan would go towards: health, safety and infrastructure ($300 million); recreation and parks ($200 million); Public service, which includes items such as road resurfacing, bridge repairs and garbage collection ($250 million); and utilities, which include water, power, sanitary and storm sewer projects ($550 million).

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said earlier Monday that the new bonds will not raise taxes. The city is setting aside a quarter of its income tax revenue – its biggest source of revenue – to pay off its debt.

What voters are being asked to do is actually agree to co-sign this deal, automatically raising their property taxes to cover bond payments in the event that income taxes fall below projections. This is something that has happened in an unprecedented way due to the disruptions in the economy related to COVID-19. City Auditor Megan Kilgore, however, reported last week that things were looking up for the city’s income tax revenue as more working-from-home employees returned to their offices.

Any necessary tax increases “would be levied annually on all taxable property throughout the city (beginning in 2022, first due in calendar year 2023)”, similar to emissions of voter-approved bonds that have occurred regularly every several years. .

This “additional voter security to back our debt is really helping us in the eyes of the rating agencies,” Pro Tem Council President Elizabeth Brown, chair of the city’s finance committee, said at Monday’s meeting.

Brown said the $1.5 billion would be spent over several annual capital budget cycles. “It shouldn’t be spent on the upcoming immobilization process, or even the next one,” she said.

Abortion ruling prompts anti-discrimination reminder

On other issues Monday, expressing outrage at the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Brown pointed to anti-discrimination protections added to the city code last year that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of one’s sexual and reproductive health. the decisions.

This would include a decision to seek an abortion in another state. The city’s anti-discrimination law does not protect abortion doctors, Brown said, but rather prohibits discrimination by landlords and employers who might seek to retaliate against a woman who has had an abortion.

OK Affordable Housing Plan for Driving Park

In zoning actions on Monday, Council approved by a 6-0 vote – over objections from some neighbors – a series of waivers to pave the way for the conversion of a dilapidated industrial site along the avenue East Livingston in the Driving Park area in low income apartments. .

Woda Cooper Companies said earlier this year that it planned to spend up to $25 million on the project at 1826 E. Livingston Ave., just west of the Norfolk Southern Railroad overpass at the eastern end of the district.

While neighbors said they feared the density, traffic and crime the project could bring, council members said it aligned with the city’s goal of providing more affordable housing.

“That’s how it goes,” said Dave Perry, an agent for Woda Cooper.

The development will feature 10 one-bedroom units, 86 two-bedroom units and 22 three-bedroom units, and will have rents targeting those between 30% and 80% of the area’s median income, which last year was 46,950 $ for one person and $67,050 for a household of four.

Council Speaker Shannon Hardin said he could understand some neighbors’ concerns, but he grew up in this neighborhood and “this site has been vacant my whole life,” he said. “All my life.”

“I saw a very fair process,” he said.

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