Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 17, 2014

Can Kokomo afford flood control and new stadium?

City bonding $11 million for stadium and flood control

(Continued)

Even using the city’s pre-annexation population, the overall level of Kokomo’s obligations, on a per capita basis, was among the lowest in the state, about $963 per resident. For comparison, the city of Carmel, with $976 million in obligations, has a per capita debt ratio of $12,335 per resident.

The interest rate charged on bonds is an indication of how investors perceive the city’s ability to repay. The last time the city’s wastewater utility had a bond series rated, in 2011, Standard & Poor’s rated it AA+.

Jim Merten, vice chairman of City Securities, Indianapolis, said Friday he’s certain Kokomo will attract a similar, “investment grade” bond rating when the bonds sell later this year.

“[$11 million] is not much for a city the size of Kokomo; they’re not heavily indebted,” Merten said.

More importantly for local taxpayers, Kokomo School Corp. and the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library aren’t heavily indebted either, he noted.

“I’d say the community in general is in good shape,” he said.

Even Carmel, with its seemingly massive debt load, still attracts good interest rates on new debt, thanks to the strong local economy, and its large tax base, Merten said.

Hamilton County has about 3.5 times the population of Howard County, but around six times as much tax base.

The real savings

This past week, Goodnight made a presentation to city employees, detailing how public and private wages in Kokomo compare to other cities and surrounding counties.

The reason for the presentation was mainly to get buy-in from the employees, who have, apart from police officers, seen their wages frozen during Goodnight’s tenure, Goodnight and his key staff included.

The city has about 100 fewer employees – about 20 percent of the workforce – than when Goodnight arrived.

The cost savings from the wage freezes and attrition have been massive, and are the main reason the city’s operating balance has increased every year since Goodnight took office.

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