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City of Longmont Ballot Question 3C: Water system improvements bonds

What it asks: Shall the City of Longmont be authorized to borrow up to $80,000,000 for the purpose of financing water system improvements, including but not limited to the Nelson Flanders Water Treatment Plant Expansion Project and replacement of aging water system infrastructure like treated water storage and raw and treated water transmission lines; and shall the borrowing be evidenced by bonds, loan agreements, or other financial obligations payable solely from the City’s water utility enterprise revenues and be issued at one time or in multiple series at a price above, below or equal to the principal amount of such borrowing and with such terms and conditions, including provisions for redemption prior to maturity with or without payment of premium, as the City may determine?

What it means: Longmont is asking voters’ authorization to sell up to $80 million in bonds — backed by a five-year schedule of water rates City Council has already approved, are already in place and that will remain in place regardless of the outcome of the vote on this ballot question — to finance a variety of improvements to the city’s system of delivering raw water to its treatment plant, expanding that treatment plant, improving treated-water storage facilities and the system for transmitting treated water to homes and businesses.

What supporters say: Using bonding and debt servicing spreads out the cost of needed infrastructure improvements over time to avoid rate spikes, which keeps rates more predictable for users. Bond financing results in user rates that are initially lower than if cash were used to fund the improvements and distributes costs more equitably across both current and future residents. Bond financing allows the City of Longmont’s Water Utility to make improvements in the near future, rather than waiting until funds become available. Many of these improvements are required by federal regulations such as the Safe Drinking Water Act. Short-term, less-expensive repairs are unlikely to adequately extend the life of the water infrastructure system at the level required by regulations.

What opponents say: Residents will pay more over time due to the bond interest. Although cash funding the improvements would result in higher rates for several years, the long-term rate impact would be lower because there would be no bond interest to be paid. The City should not go into debt to fund projects of this type; other sources of funding should be found. The COVID-19 pandemic has made life unpredictable; now is not the right time to issue these bonds. Short-term, less expensive repairs may extend the life of the water infrastructure system.

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