Thursday, October 25, 2007

Council OKs Skate Park Repair

City also issues new bond, saving $1.5 million by refinancing redevelopment debt

By Nao Braverman

The Ojai City Council decided, Tuesday night, that maintaining a moderately diminished skate park was better than pouring money into a facility that would soon be replaced, and certainly better than having no park at all.
City manager Jere Kersnar explained that the $10,000 budgeted for skate park repairs this year was not enough to bring the entire facility to a safe and serviceable level.
That left the council to decide between digging into the city’s general fund for the remaining $20,000 to make the $30,000 total needed for a thorough skate park makeover, shutting it down altogether and reallocating funds toward the construction of a new permanent park, or using the $10,000 to repair the more popular and less costly equipment while removing the remaining dilapidated obstacles, and maintaining a somewhat reduced park until it is replaced by a permanent facility.
Council decided on the latter, given that plans for a new permanent skate park seem to be moving quickly with the Skate Park Task Force scheduled to present their progress at an upcoming meeting.
“I would like to save the money and use it towards a permanent park,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. “From what it looks like we might have a permanent park by spring. I might even be in favor of saving that $10,000 for the new park and shutting down the existing park altogether.”
Councilwoman Hanstad said she agreed except for the last bit.
“I would hate to have no skate park at all until spring,” she said. Councilman Steve Olsen agreed with Hanstad. And the council made a unanimous decision to remove some of the park’s present equipment, and use the $10,000 budgeted to repair what is left of it until a new facility is built.
Also on the topic of city funds, the Ojai Redevelopment Agency decided to issue a new 2007 tax revenue allocation bond, in order to refund an outstanding 1997 tax allocation bond, saving the agency a total of $1.5 million.
Essentially a refinancing, the new bond would be issued in a large pool of tax revenue allocation bonds, from other redevelopment agencies, through the Association of Bay Area Governments.
The refinancing would decrease the city’s interest rate from about 6 percent to 3.5 or 4 percent at most, said the city’s finance director Susie Mears, cutting Ojai’s debt service costs by $1.5 million.
In addition the refinance also allows the city to access funds by 2012 instead of waiting until 2022, which would be required if the city were to keep its current bond. This makes it possible for the Redevelopment Agency to pay back some of its debt to the city.
Redevelopment agencies often borrow money from the cities they serve, said Mears. Ojai’s Redevelopment Agency still has not paid back the $3.4 million it borrowed from the city to get started. If the Redevelopment Agency can access some funds by 2012, however, it could begin paying the city back, thus helping replenish the city’s depleted general fund.
“We did an analysis of the refinance and we are going to come out great on this project,” said Mears.

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