NC Deep Dive

Exploring Fuquay Varina's 2023 Parks Bond Referendum

October 20, 2023 Amanda Lunn
NC Deep Dive
Exploring Fuquay Varina's 2023 Parks Bond Referendum
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you aware there will be a $60 million dollar Parks Bond on your ballot for Fuquay Varina this municipal election? This conversation takes you on a journey through the fascinating intricacies of Fuquay Varina's bond history and the 2023 Parks Bond, itself. From the 2015 and 2021 bond referendums and their impact on property taxes to the ins and outs of the current bond referendum and its potential implications on property taxes, we leave no stone unturned. We break it all down to give you a clear understanding of what you will be voting on this election so that you may be a more informed citizen heading into this year's election!

2023 Parks and Recreation Bond Information

Fuquay Varina Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum
--October 24, 2023 at 7:00 PM
--Fuquay Varina Arts Center
--123 E. Vance Street, Fuquay Varina, NC 27526

Campaign Finance Reports for All Candidate Committees

Voter Information
--Register to Vote
--Voter Info (Designated Polling Places, Sample Ballots, Registration Status, Voting Jurisdiction, Verify Address and Party Affiliation)
--Election Information
 --Election Day Voting FAQs
 
--Absentee by Mail FAQs

Early Voting Locations
October 19th-November 4th
Wake County Board of Elections Office: 1200 N. New Hope Rd., Raleigh, 27610

October 28th-November 4th
 --Avery Street Recreation Center: 125 Avery St., Garner, 27529
--John M. Brown Community Center: 53 Hunter St., Apex, 27502

Bus Routes for Early Voting

ELECTION DAY
Tuesday, November 7th from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM

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As always, if you are interested in being on or sponsoring the podcast or if you have any particular issues, thoughts, or questions you'd like explored on the podcast, please email NCDeepDive@gmail.com. Your contributions would be greatly appreciated.

Now, let's dive in!

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Hello friends, you are listening to the Holly Springs Deep Dive podcast, soon to be called the NC Deep Dive. I am your host, Amanda Benbow Lunn, and today we will be unraveling Fuquay Varina's 2023 Parks Bond. While I did reach out to a few individuals, including the Towns Communication Director, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Director and a Town Commissioner, I was unable to find someone willing to share their time and speak to you via this medium. I think part of the reason is that this is still labeled the Holly Springs Deep Dive and that this is the first year Fuquay Varina has been included with the election coverage. Regardless, I personally feel, if even one person hears this and becomes a more informed voter, that it is more than worth it. So I am venturing forth with this episode solo. Please note, I only know what I know and am by no means an expert. What I do know has been gleaned from Fuquay Varina's website, my conversations with the Holly Springs Town Manager and Parks and Recreation Director about their upcoming 2023 Parks Bond, and just general internet searches. If you have specific questions, you can reach out to Fuquay Varina's Communications Director, Susan Weis, at 919-552-1417, or by emailing her at sweis@Fu quay-Varina. org. Without further ado, First off, let's start from the beginning with what a bond referendum is, as that is what will be on your ballot. Basically, it's your board of commissioners seeing a need and allowing you, as voters, to make the decision to proceed or not. The bond referendum will state as follows on your ballot in the upcoming municipal election, shall the order authorizing Fuquay Varina general obligation bonds in the maximum amount of $60 million, plus interest, to pay capital costs of providing parks and recreational facilities and paying related costs, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of an interest on the bonds, as adopted by the town's board of commissioners on July 10, 2023, be approved. You will simply be voting yes or no. If the majority of voters choose yes, the town will be authorized to issue up to $60 million in GO bonds to put towards the park and recreation projects. If the majority of voters choose no, the town will not be authorized to issue these funds. Why general obligation bonds, also known as GO bonds? Go bonds and our AAA credit rating result in lower borrowing costs for taxpayers. A AAA credit rating is denoted for having the best prospects for ongoing viability and the lowest expectation of failure risk. They are assigned only to institutions with extremely strong and stable fundamental characteristics, such that they are the most unlikely to have to rely on extraordinary support to avoid default. These bonds make capital projects more affordable and put less stress on the town's budget, and allow the town to pay back via installments rather than 100% upfront. If passed, the town will have up to seven years to issue the GO bonds up to the total amount authorized, which in this case is $60 million, and they will have 20 years to pay it back, based on the date of issuance. And just because they are asking for the $60 million, it doesn't mean they will necessarily take all of it out or take all of it out at the same time, the board would have the ability to assess the tax rate and only adjust it as they feel it is necessary. For example, if the town released $30 million of the $60 million bond to begin with, the board would only be considering for this moment any tax adjustments solely for the $30 million and they would have 20 years to pay back that $30 million. They would make further determinations about the property taxes as they issue more funds and if they issue more funds later, they will have 20 years from that moment to pay back that amount. Go bonds allow both current and future taxpayers to share the costs, allowing for more equitable funding by all taxpayers who may benefit from the bond projects. Now, all this to say, at any time, the board has the right to adjust property taxes as they see fit to cover other town expenses beyond their potential projects included in this bond referendum for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. Let's talk a bit about Fuquay Varina's bond history before we dive into the one that will be on your upcoming ballot. The first I'll start with is a 2015 bond referendum that passed. It was for a total of $26 million. $21 million was allotted for several transportation projects, including the completion of the Northwest Loop of Judd Parkway. Fuquay Varina was able to use this portion of the bond funding to receive another $21 million in transportation grants from state and federal authorities. The other $5 million of this bond referendum went towards water and sewer lines for the water treatment plant expansion. The projected tax impact for this referendum was slated for 6. 75 cents per $100 of property value. Looking back at Fuquay Varina's tax history, in 2016, there was only a 4. 75 cent increase and this increase only lasted four years before dropping another 3. 7$0.375 cents. Then, two years ago, back in 2021, Fuquay Varina had two bond referendums on the ballot for a total of $38.5 million. One was another transportation bond for $20 million to improve traffic flow and congestion in the town and to leverage further state and federal matching transportation grants. This bond, which passed, was projected to increase our local property taxes by 2. 5 cents per $100 valuation. The other bond referendum that the majority of voters voted in at this time was an $18.5 million parks bond. This bond has funded the community center north at Hilltop-N eedmore Town Park and Preserve. They just broke ground on this multi-generational facility a month or so ago. It will feature three gymnasiums, two racquetball courts, an elevated indoor walking track, fitness areas, a teaching kitchen, multi-purpose classrooms and a dedicated active adult wing for those 55 and older. This community center is expected to open towards the end of next year. Again, this bond was for $18.5 million and they projected a total of 4 and a half cents property tax increase per $100 of property value. The town has issued the entirety of the $18.5 million, but they were able to accomplish it with just a 3 cent property tax increase. Since these two bond referendums passed in 2021, Fuquay Varina's tax rate has increased by $0.06 total. While I was unable to find online anything on the actual tax impact for the transportation portion. Since the park's bond impact was $0.03, I am left to assume the town needed to raise the municipal property taxes by another $0.03 for the transportation bond instead of the projected 2. 5 cents. Now, just two years later, they have another parks bond on the ballot. Why is that? Back in 2022, the town issued their annual community survey. 92% of residents indicated that Fuquay Varina is a great place to live. Residents also specified that the quality of parks in greenways is a major priority. According to the website, the town states our parks, trails, recreation facilities and programs significantly contribute to the residents' quality of life, providing recreational opportunities and facilities that enhance social development and community well-being. The town believes they are a key component of our community's new growth and strong roots. Use of green spaces is associated with decreased health complaints, improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduced stress, improved general health perceptions and a greater ability to face problems. Depending on the study, scientists have found those living in spaces with more green areas may have 33 to 44 percent lower incidences of physician-diagnosed anxiety disorders. 93 percent of US adults say their mental health is improved by services offered by local park and recreation departments. The top three mental health opportunities found in parks and rec include socializing with friends and family, spending time in nature and exercising. According to a study by NC State, maintaining green spaces in parks has the potential to lower risk of both property and violent crimes, for a few reasons. One is because contact with nature relieves mental fatigue, stress and aggression, which are precursors to crime. Another reason is that parks and green spaces promote positive social interactions and connections. We get to meet our neighbors and truly see them and their humanity as part of our village, which increases our empathy and the levels at which we care for them. Thirdly, when parks and green spaces cater to the needs of the community and residents actually use them, it puts more eyes on the streets, creating constant community surveillance. When parks are allowed to deteriorate, they then can become magnets for crime. With our population continuing to rise quickly and residents finding immense value in parks and recreational opportunities, the town is striving to meet the needs of our community today and in the future by constructing new recreation facilities and town park amenities, while also enhancing existing facilities. Five potential projects have been identified, if the bond funding is authorized by voters, they are a future recreational park that is 70 plus acres, featuring baseball, softball, soccer and similar outdoor athletic fields, a shelter, restrooms and other amenities. The location for this is yet to be determined. The second project is the Hilltop Needmore Town Park and Preserve improvements and implementation of priorities from the town's adopted master plan, which include two ball fields, pickleball courts, resurfacing of walking trails and additional parking. The third potential project includes an indoor sports complex for basketball, pickleball, volleyball and other indoor sports. The fourth potential project would be greenways that are to be determined and the fifth potential project would include renovations to the Fuquay Varina Community Center. How are these potential projects chosen? According to the town's website, every four to five years the parks, recreation and cultural resources department performs a needs assessment of recreational facilities, called a comprehensive system-wide master plan. As part of that study, the department examines how facilities and programs are used and current growth trends. Using surveys and public outreach, citizens provide input on the recreational opportunities they want to see in Fuquay Varina. The town factors in existing facilities maintenance needs and they devise a plan. The 2024 comprehensive system-wide master plan lists $68,509,890 million in projects. To pay for these investments, the town will utilize a combination of recreation unit fees, state-funded grants such as parks and recreation trust funds, other grant opportunities and a $60 million bond referendum, and that is what will be on your ballot. In the past four years, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department has seen significant growth in youth and adult sports, gymnasium use and recreation program participation. Existing facilities are under heavy demand as the use has steadily increased each year. For example, youth sports participation has risen 47.6% since 2019. Due to facility constraints, in some instances sports registration has been capped, practice times have been limited and the number of games reduced to accommodate facility limitations. The current community center gym is at full utilization and the community center north gyms, when built, will alleviate some of that pressure. However, additional gym space will be needed to meet citizen demand. Improvements and implementation of priorities from the adopted master plan are in store for the hilltop need, more town park and preserve. Two separate surveys indicate that greenways are important to Fuquaverina citizens. The master plan surveys, public input efforts identified paths and greenways as a top priority for new construction over the next five years. In the 2022 community survey administered by the town, residents indicated that the parks and recreation department's top emphasis over the next two years should be the number of walking, biking and greenway trails and, lastly, for the community center project. While bringing on new facilities, it is essential to maintain existing ones. We've talked a bit about what the $60 million parks and recreation bond will cover. Now let's dive into the tax implications. The town believes we could see an increase of up to $0.08 per $100 of property value. Again, this is only a projection. The town suggests the impact on a median family home they value at $280,106 as of January of 2022 would be about $224 per year or $19 per month. However, wake County reevaluates real estate properties every four years. We are due for this reassessment next year and since property values have increased quite a bit over the past four years in our area, this value will likely be much higher. Checking out various resources online, our median home value seems to range from $435,000 to $500,000, which would equivalent to $348 to $400 per year or $29 to $33 per month in property tax increase. The town states that they have historically tried to minimize the tax impact by utilizing growth in revenues helped by the growing population, grant funding and staggering the projects in phases. Looking at the actual property tax figures for Fuquay Varina may help some voters. From 1987 to 2007, our local municipal property taxes were over $0.50 per $100 of property tax value, with the highest being $0.70 in the early 90s. This was likely due to a much smaller population. In 2008, Wake County's real estate reappraisal went into effect which, aligned with the Great Recession, our local property tax plummeted to 38 1/2 cents per $100 valuation, so again it went down quite drastically. It stayed there until 2016, when real estate was reappraised and the 2015 transportation bond passed. At that point it went up from 38. 5 cents to 43. 25 cents, where it remained until the next Wake County tax assessment, where it fell to 39 1/2 cents. In 2022, it raised $0.03, likely from the passing of the 2021 parks bond. This year it raised by another $0.03 to 45. 5 cents per $100 property value, which I assume was related to the 2021 transportation bond passing. To recap, since 2011, we have seen a net increase in municipal property taxes of $0.07. Currently, there are eight municipalities within Wake County with higher property tax rates and six that have lower property tax rates. So we are right around middle. Fuquay Varina seems to have a pattern of increasing their property tax rates quite a bit for a few years and then lowering them quite a bit for a few years. We seem to be on an upward trend right now and even if they can limit the tax impact from $0.08 to $0. 05, we are still looking at a local property tax rate of over $0.50 per $100 of property valuation, which Fuqya Varina hasn't seen since 2007, just before the Great Recession. As of the recording of this episode, the Fuquay Varina Chamber of Commerce has not weighed in on the economic impact to local businesses or the town in general. They are planning to discuss it soon so they can consider endorsing the Parks B ond at their next board meeting. They will be hosting their Candidate Forum on October 24th at 7pm at the Fuquay Varina Arts Center. They will be gathering community questions soon and hope for your assistance. It will be interesting to see if the residents of Fuquay Varina feel they are able to take this on or if it may end up being too much to pay at the moment, especially since Wake County will be reassessing property values. That is the great thing about this being a bond referendum Residents get to choose by casting their vote. A simple majority of yes will mean that the town may authorize the go bonds up to $60 million. A simple majority of no will mean that the town is not authorized to issue these bonds. If that happens, the town would need to cap participation in certain youth sports programs. Furthermore, some projects may be postponed or eliminated entirely. The town board may also choose to advance a portion of the identified bond projects through other funding mechanisms, which may mean projects may be tackled in later years and or at possibly a higher cost. The board also has the power to establish an altered bond referendum during future election cycles for different amounts, proposed projects and or tax implications that residents would then have the ability to reassess and vote on. No matter what residents ultimately decide with their vote, the town of Fuquay Varina will continually be reassessing what the priorities are of its community members, encouraging community feedback and doing their best to continue serving the community in ways that are meaningful. Fuquay Varina relies on you to share your feedback on what is meaningful to you by completing surveys as they are released and speaking with the town's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Their meetings are open to the public and are held at 7pm on the second Monday of each month. Remember that early voting has already started in Raleigh and will begin in Apex and Garner starting on October 28th. Early voting will end on November 4th. Anyone in Wake County may vote at any of these early voting election places during the early voting period. Election Day is Tuesday, November 7th. On Election Day, you must vote at your specified polling place. Please make a plan now to vote and make your voice heard. Of special note, this will be the first time photo ID is required. Please check in with those who have recently moved here, your elderly friends and family and those who may not have a license or drive, to make sure they are ready and able to vote when the time comes. I will include important links about this 2023 Parks Bond, along with general voting information, including bus routes to early voting locations, in this episode's show notes. That brings this episode of the Holly Springs Deep Dive podcast, soon to be called the NC Deep Dive, to a close. Make sure you check out the rest of our election coverage, including our Candidate Conversations, where you can learn more about those running for Fuquay Varina's Board of Commissioners, also known in some places as Town Council. As always, if you have any topics or thoughts you'd like to share, you may do so through social media or emailing hollyspringspodcast@ gmail. com. Thank you for listening to today's episode and becoming a more informed voter. Our next topic will dive into finding connection and making friends as adults. Be on the lookout for further episodes at www. hollyspringsdeepdive. com, spotify, apple Podcasts, audible or wherever you typically listen to podcasts. If you found value in today's episode, I'd love for you to please subscribe, rate and review it. Until next time, my friends, namaste. The love and light in me sees and honors the love and light in you.

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