On November 7th, the residents of Doraville will be asked to vote on a bond referendum. I have received several questions regarding the bond referendum. While the City does not have a particular position either for or against it, the Mayor and Council voted 5-1 in favor of allowing the ballot question on the bond. However, I voted no. Firstly, I would like to explain why I voted no. After that, I will provide answers to the questions that have been asked and others that I believe are essential to share.
Why did you vote no?
I voted against the proposal because the council had unanimously agreed on a three-phase process back in November 2022 that would take roughly 18 months. The development partner was selected, and they are currently only in phase two, which was scheduled to wrap up in November 2023. The developer informed the City in October that they are behind schedule and will not be until 2024 when they complete phase 2. I suggested that we wait until at least the 2024 primary election date, once the City has finished at least two phases. It turns out even that date may have been too aggressive. This would allow for community input and a better understanding of the full scope and cost of the entire project, not just the library. The community deserves to see the work product that the City has spent $445,000 on so far, which I have yet to see myself.
You’re probably interested to know that:
- No feasibility study has been completed.
- No environmental or soil boring reports are ready for review.
- No community meeting has ever been held soliciting input from residents on the downtown redevelopment.
- No timeframe has been shared about when the library or any other component would be built.
- The City will not know until after the feasibility study if they can get financing for this component or any other component of the redevelopment project.
- There is no current plan on where to relocate the police department.
- There is no current plan on where City Hall will temporarily relocate.
- There is no current plan to rebuild the swimming pool when it is demolished.
Do you support the library?
Yes. The referendum is not about the library. The building where the proposed library will be housed will be built regardless of whether the referendum passes or fails if the project moves forward. Current plans are for a 3-story building where the library would be just one component shared with City Hall and possible leased space.
What is the ballot language?
“Shall the City of Doraville, Georgia (“City”) issue general obligation bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed Ten Million and 00/100 Dollars ($10,000,000.00) (“Bonds”) for the purpose of financing: (a) the acquisition, construction, installation, improvement, and equipping of City facilities including library, arts, co-working and civic space in support and part of the Doraville City Center Redevelopment; (b) the costs of issuing the Bonds; and (c) capitalized interest on the Bonds?”
How did the Mayor and Council come up with the $10 million number?
It is unclear as no feasibility study has been completed and preliminary engineering will not be done until 2024. I believe it was an arbitrary number.
What would be the total cost of the bond?
The Resolution that the Mayor and Council passed authorizing the referendum called for a total cost of $16,052,250, including an 8% interest. Link
Where did the 8% interest come from?
It is unclear and appears to be arbitrary. 20-year municipal bonds currently issue between 4.08% and 4.71%. Source. The City has not started the bond rating process; however, if 8% is indeed the interest rate, the capital market views the City very poorly in its ability to repay the bond with an interest rate that high. My hunch is that it is a spurious number pushed forward without accurate information.
Does the City have a financial advisor?
Yes, but the council has never met with them or seen any reports. They appear to have been hired by the City Manager outside the City’s procurement process.
According to the City of Doraville website, on a $300,000 home, the bond would increase by $132.50 per year for 20 years.
Does the Senior Exemption apply to this new tax?
No. Seniors would be responsible for paying the same amount as all other property owners in the City.
What happens if the referendum fails?
The City will continue on the three-phase planning process. At the end of that process, the community will have had an opportunity to review and provide input on the entire plan. There will be a cost model for the whole of the project. Funding mechanisms will be identified for the entire plan. Questions that are currently unanswered regarding the pool, police station, and library will have clarity, and residents can make an informed decision. I personally feel a larger bond at a later date probably has more support in the community if everyone can see the entire vision, and it is feasible to do so.
QUESTIONS FROM RESIDENTS
If you have questions, please email me. I’ll post them here for others to know if you’re ok with that.
Q: The Mayor has said that there is no Plan B if the referendum fails. What are your thoughts on that?
A: Being that Plan A hasn’t been completed yet, I’m unsure what that means. There have not been any community meetings about this supposed Plan A. I’ve known the Mayor long enough to know that at the end of the three-phase process he will listen to the community’s desires.
Q: I was told the referendum was only asking if we wanted a library, and the rest of the downtown project was paid for.
A: I hope that this misconception is not spreading around the community. As the planning process has not finished yet, the City does not know the project’s total cost. Funding sources have not yet been identified for any part of the plan.
Q: If the referendum fails, does that mean there will not be a library?
A: No. If the referendum fails, I anticipate the library will be a topic of high interest in the community meetings to include in the final plans. I believe the City should have these meetings now instead of discussing a referendum.