Camden’s Hidden Tax Obligations --- Bond Baloney
The accompanying public notice appeared in the Tribune and Georgian on December 13, 2018. It's a Notice of a Bond Validation hearing in Camden Superior Court. The JDA wanted to use their bonding ability to borrow $1.2 million to buy property for the St. Marys Wharf. A court validation for the bond is required. Revenues from the Wharf project would repay the bonds, or the bill will fall on the taxpayers of Camden County if the private partner defaults.
Did you know that you are now obligated to repay your portion of a $1.2 million bond if the sketchy marina development falls through? That’s how this works. The JDA (just like the proposed Spaceport Authority) will borrow money pledging repayment from revenues of a speculative project. Yet, the bonds are ultimately guaranteed by the taxpayers.
No matter how well-meaning, government is acting as a high-risk venture capital investor when it “helps” a startup business. Politicians mostly act on speculative promises that a private project will be for the “public good” and create “jobs.” Despite their obligation to perform unbiased and honest evaluation, these deals are almost always over-hyped. Most fail. The Spaceport Authority Resolution is supported by layers of bureaucratic baloney and fine print.
Even worse, since Camden decision-makers are not experts in spaceports or marina operations, they depend on paid consultants with no skin in the game, nothing to lose, and hours to bill. For instance, the Camden Press reports the JDA has had to hire an environmental attorney because two banks wouldn’t finance the potential deal because of environmental hazard concerns. Yikes! This will certainly be the case with the Union Carbide spaceport property that is under an EPD Environmental Covenant and contract with Union Carbide making it mandatory that Camden County will “obtain a policy of pollution legal liability insurance.” The minimum coverage limit is $10,000,000.00 with a $100,000.00 deductible. We'll be paying the premiums.
County Attorney John Myers has said that the public will still have “input” into the issuance of Spaceport Authority bonds. The attached JDA legal notice is the kind of “input” he’s talking about. IF you read the classifieds, AND IF you had read this notice, AND IF you voiced your objections at the Superior Court Hearing, you will have had your “input.” It's disingenuous to compare this “input” as equivalent to all Camden voters deciding by referendum if we agree to incur debt. The Tribune and Georgian would have front-page stories leading up to the referendum; the Camden County Get Out The Vote organization would mobilize voters to go to the polls, and the results would be front-page news. But you can’t find a word about the $1.2 million bond validation. Even our politicians draw blank expressions when asked about it.
Similarly, we’ve been repeatedly told by Jimmy Starline and Steve Howard the spaceport will be a “public-private partnership.” They want us to believe the private partner will have significant skin in the game. But the truth is that Camden’s bond proposals make the “public-private” partnership the kind of deal where the private partner benefits from public-at-risk financing. They have even falsely compared paying for the spaceport to paying for the replacement St. Marys airport. But about 95% of the airport cost will not come from Camden taxpayers. The opposite is happening with the spaceport where Camden taxpayers have paid 100% of the cost.
As the Spaceport Authority Repeal Petition gains momentum and signatures, we’re making sure our elected officials get the message that they cannot escape citizen oversight if they create authority to sneakily obligate us to bond debt.
See www.stopspaceportcamden.us for Repeal Petition information.