Several months ago Frederick County supervisors received an "unsolicited proposal" for a new county building according to the guidelines for the Private-Public Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002. This bill can be used for just about any project or building a reliable public entity wants, or thinks it needs.
The bill allows funding to be provided by private sources. Those providing the money own the project, but the entity approving it has to pay for it somehow. Logically, the proposal includes how payment of the principal, plus interest and a return on investment, will be made. A long-term lease meets all of these requirements and hides the debt that has been incurred. Taxpayers do not have to approve a "cost of business" such as a lease as they would for a capital investment financed by the entity.
This type of funding, adopted by many state legislatures, is a devious way to spend money they do not have, creating debt, and pushing payment into the future.
Little information about the proposal has been released. Not knowing total costs is exasperating. Nothing will be released until a comprehensive plan is developed by the reviewing committee and presented to supervisors. This is the last step before the project is accepted.
The only cost stated is "the building will be $40 million." This is the cost for the building shell and does not include anything else required, including architectural design and drawings, building plans, general contractor, legal fees and the cost to develop financing; land; site preparation; infrastructure and much more. This list is not inclusive, but indicates the cost will be immensely greater then $40 million dollars. The annual lease cost may be as much as $3 to $4 million.
The existing county building will be paid off in December 2014. It is considered large enough to accommodate growth in county government for 10 years. The county does not need this building and we, the taxpayers do not need to pay for it.
Margaret Hobble, Frederick County