Godwin, White disagree: Pay-as-you-go vs. financing

Published 1:51 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Current County Commission Chairman Bill Godwin favors pay-as-you-go projects, while his challenger, former Chairman Greg White, defended long-term financing in some cases.

It was one of the points on which the two disagree that emerged in Saturday’s debate at Joe’s Barista.

Godwin said when he took office three years ago, the county jail was housing 45 female inmates in space designed for 25.

“I asked the commission to begin setting aside money from the oil and gas tax revenue, which is for capital improvements, to build an addition to the jail,” he said. “We are in the process of adding 42 additional beds.”

Godwin said the addition, which is costing $940,000, and $125,000 in renovations to the existing jail are being completed without borrowing money.

“We’ve done this without raising any taxes or indebtedness,” Godwin said. “That’s the thing I had in mind when I came here … to reduce our indebtedness and still provide.”

Godwin said the current commission also is applying the proceeds of the sales of used equipment to the purchase of new equipment to reduce the debt.

White said for a number of years, including when he served with the commission, equipment companies had a program that allowed governments to finance 100 percent of equipment, sell it at after a year, and cover the debt in full.

“It was a way to get good operating equipment,” White said. “Later on, the market changed, and the value of equipment declined.”

Godwin said the process is no longer available.

He also addressed the refinancing of the county’s indebtedness at the airport. The debt on hangars at the airport was jointly secured by the county and the cities of Andalusia and Opp. This past year, the total debt was divided and each of the three entities financed its portion.

“This reduced our obligations from $12 million to $4.7 million,” Godwin said. “With the new bond issues, we took the position to pay it off as soon as possible, not shove it down the road for some other administration to have to pay off that debt. We did a 15-year, rather than 25- or 30-year.”

White countered that while shorter terms may save money over the life of the bond, he is concerned that it takes more money out of current operations.

“Therefore, your employees got a 10-cent per hour raise,” White said. “You are allowing them to pay the cost of the bond issues. I’m saying, Bill, that’s an appropriate decision. There are also other factors.”

Godwin countered that in addition to raises approved for the current year, the county also absorbed all of the health insurance increase for employees.

“Go to private industry, and see who has been able to do that,” Godwin said.