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Newark bond referendum approaches

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A June 19th referendum in Newark will decide whether the city borrows nearly $28 million.

The plan would mainly pay for improvements to aging parts of the city’s sewer and water systems.

 

Other projects funded would be a park, a stormwater facility and several smaller capital improvements, including ADA accessibility in the city.

 

The money would come from bonds, and potentially the competitive Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, according to Newark’s finance director David Del Grande.

Residents will decide which projects they’re willing to let the city borrow for in four separate referendum questions.

Newark City Councilman Mark Morehead is against the plan, claiming only a couple of the projects the loans would fund are one-time investments. The rest, he says, are regular maintenance.

“Basically, staff is saying let’s borrow for the next 25 years, for the next five years of routine maintenance,” he said. “When we get five years down the road, we’re going to need to do that again.”

City officials say the improvements need to happen in the next few years whether the money is borrowed or not.

 

Del Grande argues that financing improvements like these with debt rather than cash is fairer to taxpayers.

 

“My biggest concern is charging today’s residents and businesses the full cost of these projects that they may or may not be here to realize today through the next twenty years. So it’s more of an equity issue.”

 

Del Grande also claims it would be nearly impossible for the city to raise the amount of money proposed by the referendum through utility rate hikes over the next few years.

 

And a New Castle County sewer rate hike of 12 percent for next fiscal year – which Del Grande says will be passed on in part to Newark residents – is awaiting the County Executive’s signature.  

The city of Newark continues to hold town halls and public hearings leading up to the vote.

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.