Mayor Lenny Curry took a victory lap recently after Jacksonville refinanced some bonds, saving some money.
Refinancing is a routine occurrence, but Curry made it seem like wizardry.
“Yesterday’s overwhelming success in the market is proof that investors across the nation have confidence in Jacksonville’s surging economy and well-managed finances,” Curry said in a press release. “My administration’s focus on continuing to pay down debt, increasing reserves, and making fiscally-responsible decisions continues to bring results.”
He almost sounds like a candidate for something.
Because 20 investors bid more than $1 billion for the $121 million of bonds available, Curry said the city “drew an incredible amount of attention from investors.”
But one financial expert told Eye on Jacksonville that growing sunbelt cities in growing states are desirable to bond investors. Jacksonville and many of those other cities have done well in capital markets since the 1950s.
In this case, the rush for the bonds probably indicated that the city’s underwriters were offering a higher rate than necessary to sell the bonds. It may have been only a few basis points, but such close tolerances can produce big profits for bond traders.
Also, one might ask why the city didn’t refinance last year. Rates have been rising recently so the savings is less than it would have been then. We would ask Curry but he doesn’t answer questions from Eye because it lacks the obeisance he requires.
The transaction brings the total amount of debt paid down since Curry’s term began in 2015 to more than $585 million.
Curry deserves kudos for debt reduction and refinancing, but maybe it wasn’t quite the masterful move his press release suggests.
Reducing costs is good but Curry is not as eager to talk about spending.
City Council Member Rory Diamond is less reluctant. He notes:
In the last 5 years, Jacksonville has:
- Extended the “Better Jax” tax
- Raised the sales tax 1/2 cent for schools
- Doubled the gas tax
- Realized huge tax revenue increases on skyrocketing property prices.
Superintendent Diana Greene, who was hailed by liberals in her previous job for raising taxes, now wants to raise property taxes again – on the heels of the sales tax increase.
The School Board, of course, is a separate taxing body and has a liberal majority, but Curry generally has supported its efforts to squeeze every drop from the local taxpayers.
Diamond asks, “When is enough enough?”
Perhaps one of the candidates to replace Curry next year will offer a plan to answer Diamond’s question.