How Pulaski County would pay for the rehabilitation or replacement of the courthouse was discussed during Monday’s joint council and commissioners meeting.
Financial Consultant Jeffrey Peters explained that there are typically two options for issuing bonds. By using a general obligation bond, Pulaski County could only raise a little more than $6 million, according to Peters. To exceed that limit, the county would have to use the more complicated lease-rental process, in which the property is transferred to a legally-separate building corporation.
Peters estimates that a $10 million project would give the county an annual payment of about $928,000. “The tax rate on that would be a little over nine cents,” he added. “And again, on that tax model we were looking at, on a $150,000 mortgaged homestead, the gross tax would be about $60 a year. After your subsidy at about 50-percent, the net tax would be about $30 a year.”
That impact would be softened by the fact that the bond on the Justice Center will have been paid off by that time. But if the project were to cost much more than $11 million, a referendum would have to be placed on the ballot, before the bond could be issued.
Council President Jay Sullivan felt the county needs to figure out how to stabilize its finances before deciding how to proceed with the courthouse. Council Member Kathi Thompson disagreed, saying that county officials can’t kick the can down the road any longer.
She noted that many of the current problems could have been avoided, if money had regularly been put into the courthouse all along. Sullivan said the council had tried to budget $250,000 a year for maintenance in the past, but when the state demanded budget cuts, that funding was eliminated.