Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission plans to borrow up to $30M
Having spent its $36 million share of Charleston County's half-cent tax funding, the county Park and Recreation Commission is planning to borrow up to $30 million for additional purchases and projects.
If you go
What: Public hearing on Park and Recreation Commission borrowing
When: 6:55 p.m. Tuesday
Where: County Council chamber in the Public Service Building, 4045 Bridge View Drive, off Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.
Some of the money that the commission hopes to borrow, essentially, already has been spent.
The county PRC relied upon reserve funds to buy McLeod Plantation on James Island, but would rather replenish its reserves and pay off the cost over time, as a homeowner might with a mortgage.
PRC Director Tom O'Rourke said public demand for parks and facilities is driving the plan to raise more funds, and the borrowing would not result in a property tax increase.
The no-tax-increase promise so far has satisfied Charleston County Council, whose members have the power to approve or deny the borrowing plan. The council also approves the PRC's budget each year.
On Thursday, council's Finance Committee recommended that the full council approve a bond ordinance allowing the PRC borrowing. The first vote on the bond ordinance is expected Tuesday following a public hearing.
The fact that the hearing on the bond issue is scheduled five minutes before the council meeting suggests that officials don't expect much turnout or great public interest in the issue.
A previous PRC hearing did not attract any members of the public.
The PRC has nearly $15 million outstanding from previous bond issues, some of which will be paid off by 2015. Without any new borrowing, the commission could potentially reduce its property tax rate related to debt payments, but O'Rourke said that's not what county residents want.
"I've never had anybody walk through our door and ask us to lower their taxes," he said. "I've got all this land where people want parks, the bike people want more trails, and nobody is asking us to shrink."
He said that forgoing the bond issue would not save people much on their taxes.
"We could probably give every member of the public $1.80 or something like that," he said. "We could also close down all the parks, sell all the land, and not charge any taxes to people."
O'Rourke said that considering the PRC's reserve funds and cash flow from park operations, "We can do (borrow) $30 million every five years, forever and ever" without raising taxes.
"And if we can get a boathouse or a skate park that generates more revenue, then maybe we can do more," he said.