Allegheny County Council OKs borrowing
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Allegheny County Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved measures to borrow $130 million for capital projects and a plan to refinance old debt.
The sole opposition came from Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, who sparred with Democratic Councilman Bill Robinson, chairman of council's Budget and Finance Committee, over which questions she could ask and to whom she could pose them.
In the end, most council members, including Councilman John DeFazio, D-Shaler, lauded the measures as a way to save taxpayer money.
"We would be foolish to bypass this situation now," Mr. DeFazio said.
The ordinance that council approved Tuesday night consists of two parts.
The first is a plan to borrow, through bond sales, as much as $130 million to cover capital projects -- equipment purchases, building renovations, road and bridge work -- for this year and next.
About $49.5 million of that money would cover projects already approved by council, about $5 million was built in as a cushion and much of the rest would cover projects not yet approved by council, said Warren Finkel, county director of budget and finance. Acting county manager Jennifer Liptak said the practice of issuing bonds at those levels was "fairly normal."
Still, Ms. Heidelbaugh asked several times and in several different ways, "Why are we borrowing $80 million in future projects, and how are we going to pay it back?"
Those questions, Mr. Robinson said, would best be answered by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who was not at the meeting.
The second part of the ordinance, which Ms. Heidelbaugh said she supported, is a measure to refinance $63 million in old debt.
Charles Goodwin, managing director for BNY Mellon Capital Markets, told council that the current interest rate on 10-year U.S. Treasury securities is the lowest it has been since the 1950s, at about 1.63 percent. He, Mr. Finkel and others fielding members' questions about the refinancing estimated that the measure will save the county $1 million at its end.
Councilman Matt Drozd, R-Ross, abstained from the vote, saying he felt he had a conflict of interest.
Near the end of the meeting, council also voted to allow its Government Reform Committee, which meets Thursday, to consider a proposal from Mr. Drozd that would allow county council members to run for other offices if they refuse to accept pay or stipends. The county charter currently requires council members to resign from their posts if they want to run for another office.
If the proposal makes it out of council in its current form, residents will vote on the charter change in November.
First Published July 4, 2012 12:00 am