NEW ROADS — Mayor Robert Meyer announced the city has consolidated three outstanding bond debts in a refinancing move that frees up several million dollars the City Council plans to use for economic development projects.
“The bottom line is that we had to get our costs under control,” Meyer said last week. “We had a budget that was going to be in the red, and that is unacceptable to me.”
The consolidation of bond debt was handled by Government Consultants of Louisiana, a financial advisory firm.
The city refinanced a 2001 water bond, which had an outstanding debt of $1.25 million; a 2001 electric bond, which had a remaining debt of $1.18 million; and a 2009 water meter lease on which the city owed $1.4 million, said Nnamdi Thompson, a financial consultant with the firm.
The two bonds dating back to 2001 originally were financed at 5 percent, he said, while the 2009 bond project carried a 5.35 percent interest rate.
The 2009 water meter bond also carried with it a $1 million balloon payment due in 2017, city officials said.
That lump sum payment was “well beyond” what the city could afford to pay in one year, Thompson said.
The refinancing combined the remainder owed on the three debts into a flat 20-year loan at 4 percent interest, Thompson said.
“By consolidating the debts and taking advantage of the lower interest rate, the city has gained money and lowered its annual payment,” Thompson said.
Meyer added that the city is now saving $150,000 in annual debt payments and has about $3.5 million to spend on projects as a result of the refinancing.
The City Council will set aside $1 million in a rainy day fund and anther $500,000 in a contingency fund to handle any cost overruns associated with future construction projects, Meyer said.
That leaves $2.5 million the mayor said has been allocated for a host of projects intended to create jobs and promote economic development.
The centerpiece of the mayor’s plan is the planned construction of a $700,000, 3,000-foot road connecting Hospital Road and Major Parkway.
Meyer said he envisions the road as the next stop to developing a new economic corridor in the city.
“I’m talking about a tree-lined boulevard with bike paths and subsurface drainage,” Meyer said. “It’s going to be a big-city road.”
The proposed road, which doesn’t yet have a name, should also be one of the final pieces needed to accommodate an expansion and relocation of the city’s existing Walmart store, Meyer said.
“We’re talking about an increase of 150 jobs with that super store and as many as 350 new jobs total within the next 12 to 18 months as we attract new businesses.
“As a new mayor, I saw that we were sorely lacking in some areas. We need jobs and we need to provide opportunities for tourism and recreation,” Meyer said. “We need to move this city forward.”