The early bird gets the worm -- but Allegheny County Council wasn't quite early enough.
Council refinanced a portion of county debt this week in an effort to take advantage of lower interest rates. Like many homeowners, county officials figured they would be leaving savings on the table otherwise, just under $10 million.
Alas, how quickly the winds of Wall Street shift.
In the week between the county's financial advisers' announcement of the refinancing and the meeting where it was first considered, plans announced by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to roll back the fiscal stimulus sent long-term interest rates leaping.
That narrowed the difference between the county's old interest amount and the new one, meaning refinancing now will save the county only about $5 million over the next 10 years.
Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said he's not wasting time crying over spilled milk.
"Whatever changes had to be made, I'm satisfied," he said at council's budget committee meeting Tuesday, noting that members of the county's financial team "don't control everything."
The county will now refinance $156 million in bonds, as well as issue $31 million or so in new debt, to pay for infrastructure repair. That's roughly the same amount the county paid back this year, keeping the public credit card's balance level.
But level wasn't good enough for Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, who said Tuesday the county should pay off its debt without taking on any more.
"The controller has come before us on several occasions and told us we have too much debt," Ms. Heidelbaugh said. "Obviously, we need to fix things. But we need to look at our spending."
The Republican's concerns were voted down, with only Krista Harris, R-Mt. Lebanon, joining her in opposing the measure. Ms. Heidelbaugh also unsuccessfully sought to vote separately on the debt refinancing, which she supported.
"I think this is the time to look at some things that haven't been fixed since Franklin Roosevelt was president," Councilman James Ellenbogen, D-Banksville, said.
Andrew McGill: email@example.com or 412-263-1497.