Council chiefs claim the reasoning for the borrowing is for capital projects which will improve the city and generate income.
Council debt has risen to in excess of 420 million this year, but leaders insist it is 8216good borrowing8217.
StokeonTrent City Council has taken out a further 25 million of long term loans across the 2018/19 calendar year to help pay for various projects such as new private sector housing.
The council currently spends 9 of its revenue stream on servicing its debts, above the average ratio for similar authorities and a ratio which is set to rise to 12 per cent over the next two years.
Local authorities have been warned against exposing public funds to 8216unnecessary or unquantified risk8217 by investing too much in commercial property.
Paul Boden, Strategic Manager for Corporate Finance, said 8220If you look at the authorities we are more similar to, there are some which have financing costs which are 25 per cent of their revenue stream.
Local authorities can access cheap loans through the Public Works Loan Board, meaning their borrowing costs are lower than the private sectors.
Mohammed Pervez, Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, questioned whether the council was right to be borrow so much to invest into property.
He told us 8220I am getting a bit nervous about whether this is the right strategy for the local authority to take.
However, officers have since assured the committee that the councils borrowing is focused on improving StokeonTrent through projects within the city, as opposed to property speculation for its own sake.
All around Streator one sees signs with the message x201cYes, City Manager.x201d The signs promote the city manager form of government versus a mayoral form of government. In a few days, the residents of Streator will vote in favor or against our current system of governing.
Many of us have had the opportunity to read comments on social media posted by people on both sides of this governmental fence. We can read opinion letters posted in the paper and have listened to or participated in discussions both for and against. I am one of those people.
The argument I have heard most often against our current system is that our manager has too much power. As I understand it, the city manager derives his power through and from the City Council. The city manager attends all council meetings but does not have any voting rights. The city council oversees local policy and budgets and appoints a professional city manager to handle administrative tasks on a daytoday basis. Many city managers are well versed in financial and legal issues, municipal regulations and processes, personnel management, and more.
At many council meetings, I have witnessed our previous and current city manager make this statement x201cThe city manager works at the pleasure of the council.x201d Another oft repeated statement at council meetings is x201cit is up to council to decide.x201d I have heard the city manager make recommendations to council regarding various issues or policies facing our city and it is council that approves or rejects the recommended action. So, I question the argument our city manager has too much power. It seems to me, the power is in the hands of council and only the council can approve recommendations presented by our city manager, offered by the many boards, and departments of the city.
I have also heard salary as an argument against city manager. Why do we pay both a mayor and manager? I just read the comparisons in a previous opinion letter, so I wonx2019t repeat them. Suffice to say, city manager government is significantly more economical, to the tune of 169,000 annually.
If we do away with our current system of government who will perform the tasks of our current city manager? The current parttime council seats will become fulltime positions. Do we have people willing to throw their hat in the ring for local elections?Are there people in our community willing or able to work full time for Streator? Will they be grant writers, well versed in the law, familiar with city regulations, able to perform the responsibilities of an economic development director, and the many other responsibilities of a city manager? How many of our citizens are willing to take on those responsibilities? If those people can be found here in Streator but donx2019t take the challenge, where will we find those who will?
These are the questions I will ask myself as I consider which box to check on the ballot on November 6. Are you asking any questions before you check the box? My humble opinion is that we all should.