March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Council approves bond refinancing, leaving tax-foreclosed properties in county’s hands

Monday, Dec. 3 — This week in Brian Jeffries and Carol Wood versus the administration: The opposing sides manage to turn a “good news story” into an argument over unanswered questions.

Tonight’s exercise should be the last over the issue of refinancing a series of bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates.

The administration says the city could save roughly $4 million over the life of the bonds, some which mature over another 17 years. The Council approved the two resolutions — which involved several different bonds ranging from golf course maintenance to sewage disposal — unanimously. First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington was absent.

It sets off another three- to four-week process before the process is complete.

But it was the second week in a row Council President Jeffries or Councilwoman Wood argued with the administration over the issue that both sides support — Jeffries tonight said a couple of times the refinancing is a “good news story.”

Last week, Bernero was upset with the Council for not moving on his recommendations quicker; Jeffries and Wood said his expectations were unrealistic. This week, Jeffries wanted specific answers in committee on how much the city would save per year by refinancing. (Councilwoman Tina Houghton asked the same question during the regular meeting; she wasn’t at Committee of the Whole.)

City Finance Director Angela Bennett said that information isn’t available because interest rates fluctuate over the life of the bond. After a few rounds of rephrasing the question for Bennett — and getting the same answers — Jeffries was asked by Chief of Staff Randy Hannan to “move on” because Hannan thought he had asked the same question three different times. The city’s bond counsel was also present.

“I don’t understand how you can come up here and be unable to explain what your annual savings are going to be,” Jeffries said. “I understand it’s somewhat of a moving target. What I would have liked to see is a savings schedule on the remainder (of the bonds). It’s not unreasonable to ask.”

When Houghton asked Hannan before the full Council vote whether savings would before the next fiscal year, Hannan said: “The answer is yes.”

The resolutions do not extend the life of any of the bonds and the $4.2 million estimate is a net savings, which factors in the cost to refinance. The administration also says it’s working on a tight deadline to get them refinanced before the end of the year and a potential new wave of fiscal uncertainty (see: fiscal cliff).

In other business, the Council unanimously approved eight other resolutions at tonight’s meeting:

  • Two resolutions reject the transfer of tax-foreclosed properties in Ingham and Eaton counties. The thinking behind doing so is because the city can’t afford to maintain these properties that didn’t sell at auction, so the county takes them over to demolish, rehabilitate or resell through the Ingham County Land Bank.
  • Two resolutions appoint two City Council staffers: Diana Bitely as the Council’s office manager and Lindsay Green as administrative secretary.
  • Transferring funds for an emergency shelter grant because the amount received increased since July, Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson said.
  • Accepting a grant for homeland security “planning, exercising, training and purchasing equipment.”
  • Accepting a report on sole source purchases for equipment for the Fire Department.
  • A tribute recognizing the 10th anniversary for the Chi Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.