Loans, bonds and tax burdens from baseball

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – There are now three numbers floating around in the discussion of building a multi-use baseball stadium in the Port City.

Everyone knows the bond referendum in November is $37 million dollars because of a 2.5 cent property tax increase. The city of Wilmington values a penny at $1.2 - $1.5 million, meaning the new rate would generate up to $3.75 million in one year. If the rate is left unchanged for 20 years, the Vote No Stadium Tax group warns of a $75 million tax burden.

City, however, say they don't need that much money for the stadium project. The city's finance department estimates the cost, including interest on a 20-year loan, would be $54 million. Mayor Bill Saffo said that's simply the cost of borrowing money, much like a home loan.

"If you could pay cash for it, it'd be $37 million today, end of story," Saffo said. "But when you amortize it for 20 years you pay interest – everybody pays interest."

Saffo added that the Local Government Council approved the city's loan and repayment plan, ensuring it would cover all costs in a worst case scenario.

Councilman Kevin O'Grady took issue with the mention of a $75 million projection. He said the city's repayment plan, over time, reduces the need of the entire 2.5 cent tax to build the stadium. O'Grady said $75 million is an overstatement because the money that's not spent on the stadium project has other uses. He mentioned two possibilities: transferring the money to other needed city projects like roads and infrastructure, or returning the money to the public with a drop in the tax rate. The latter would require a vote for a future city council.

Voters will decide the future of Minor League baseball in Wilmington with a vote on the $37 million bond referendum this November.

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