In response to a mayoral candidate’s column (“Commentary raised more questions concerning finances,” The Daily News, Feb. 28), I am compelled to tell him and everyone why, contrary to his claims, the city of Galveston truly is strong financially.

I’ll stick to financial facts and leave it to others to refute the candidate’s clearly misleading comparisons of our city employees’ pensions and his baseless insinuations about ethics and practices by city council and staff.

First, Galveston has $241 million in debt. Our peer cities, which the city uses for market comparisons before making financial decisions, average $386 million in debt. In fact, only Texas City and Pasadena have less total debt than Galveston among 10 peer cities.

Galveston’s property taxes are in line with the average among our peers. But only 5.1 percent of those revenues are dedicated to bond debt, the lowest among the 10 peer cities. The bonds issues are paying for our capital improvement plan, financing the many street, sewer, water and drainage projects going on across the island — projects neglected for decades. This city council and staff are finally doing this vital work instead of delaying, deferring or dismissing it, as in the past.

Second, this debt was undertaken only after careful deliberation, particularly about cost. We all know that, as infrastructure ages, replacement costs go up. So completing these projects likely will never be cheaper than now. With interest rates as low as ever, this council and staff acted prudently in issuing bonds. The timing was right, as investors paid a premium to loan us the money for needed projects.

Third, bond financing was the most efficient way to fund major projects. It enabled the council and staff to launch many urgently needed projects quickly. Trying to save cash for each project (pay as you go) would take many years, infrastructure would continue to crumble and costs would rise. Interest rates on Galveston debt are at record lows.

Fourth, the city’s three pension plans are administered and controlled by elected members and appointed trustees — not the mayor or city staff. This city council targeted pension reform and its efforts led to greater sustainability, the terms agreed to by all sides. If fund forecasts prove out, unfunded liabilities finally will decrease. In prior administrations, including 1998 to 2004, unfunded liabilities of each pension increased annually.

Fifth, when city council paid $13.5 million to settle a $20+ million lawsuit, council and staff didn’t discuss increasing taxes to pay it. Regarding spending tax dollars, current municipal accounting and transparency standards are very specific. The recent modest tax increase covers negotiated pension fund contribution increases and better city employee health insurance.

I agree with Assistant City Manager Mike Loftin’s statement that the City of Galveston’s financial condition is strong. If a mayoral candidate or anyone else doubts it, I refer them to Moody’s Investors Services or Fitch Ratings Inc., both of which gave the city strong credit ratings — an AA rating, which is the second highest rating category and reflects prudent financial management and low debt burden. Let’s keep moving Galveston forward!

Jason Hardcastle is Galveston’s District 4 councilman.

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(9) comments

Ron Woody

Hear! Hear!

David Landriault

Great points, Jason! Let's stick to the facts. You laid them out perfectly. The city has never been stronger.

Bill Cherry

Perhaps, but there is something inherently wrong with the city's leadership and its employees that cause 45th Street mess to be left unattended. In fact, it's outrageous.

Connie Patterson

Thanks Jason for your very professionally written article. As someone once said, people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts

Bill Quiroga

If I may respond to your Guest Column, Galveston has $241 million in debt. Our peer cities, which the city uses for market comparisons before making financial decisions, average $386million in debt. In fact, only Texas City and Pasadena have less total debt than Galveston amount 10 peer cities.”

I have done extensive research of the financial state of the City of Galveston. Here are my findings. All resource is taken for State of Texas Comptroller, City of Galveston and EMMA Municipal Market Access websites.

1. Fact: I did not find any articles/documents to the claim City of Galveston having financial trouble as of yet. This may change due to the economic impact to the city’s over spending and the coronavirus.

2. Fact: Mr. Hardcastle compares two other cities with the city of Galveston. Let take a look at this.

Texas City has at debt of $52,900,00, a population 49,153 and a pay per/capita of $1076.23 for every man woman and child.

3. Fact: Pasadena has a debt of $218,200,000, a population of 153,219 and a pay per/capita of $1421.11 for every man woman and child.

Fact: Galveston has a debt of $272,000,000, a population of 50,457 and a pay per/capita of $5390.72 for every man woman and child.

4. Fact, as you can see, we have an out of control sending problem.

Now let’s look at the 45th street project.

1. Fact: Public information W007244-030920, no feasibility study done.

2. Fact: if this study would have been done, we would have found all of the error with this project and would have save millions of dollars in taxpayer monies.

3. Fact: mismanagement of the project as well as wasted taxpayer monies running into the millions.

4. Fact: The increase of the project as of Mar 16, 2020 $1,532,226 million dollar to the taxpayer.

5. Fact all of the council member received copy of all of the Change orders describing the details, not one council member raised issues with the project increases in cost as well as the delays causing hardship to the residents and business owner.

Lisa Blair

Bill, you still don’t get it, do you? It’s not helpful to keep spreading falsehoods about our economy. Especially in a time of great uncertainty. Everyone is fearful. It’s time to find another campaign strategy.

Bill Quiroga

Lisa, responding to your comment “It’s not helpful to keep spreading falsehoods about our economy,” please explain to me as well as who reads these comments which ones are “falsehoods.”

As I stated, data comes from the City of Galveston adopted 2020 budget, the state, the city information request and EMMA website. I have copies of this information supporting these facts. If you or any others would like to review these fact I can direct you to them, please let me know.

I would like you to prove to me as well as the readers which one of my statements is false stating were you receive your information. Please provide me with a copy of your information to support your claims.

Thank you in advance.

Lisa Blair

Bill, why would I provide you with information? You’ve already been given the information by Mike Loftin, Jason Hardcastle and several others. The problem is that you are either unwilling or unable to understand it. You know that saying “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.

Bill Quiroga

Here we go again. The 5th Change order for the 45th street fiasco. March 13, 2020 an increase of $113,251.02 bring the cost overruns to a whopping $ 1,645,477 million dollar to the taxpayers and it’s not over yet.

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