Your View: City borrowing has made good sense

Your View: City borrowing has made good sense

By City Councilor Tim Lovain, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
I would like to add some thoughts to the ongoing discussions about the city’s debt.

First, the City of Alexandria did much less borrowing in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and, as a result, they barely built anything. As of 2000, Alexandria hadn’t built a new school in 30 years and hadn’t built a new fire station in more than 40 years. Alexandria didn’t invest much in libraries, recreational centers, transportation improvements, or its sewer system.

Alexandria faced a huge infrastructure deficit that officials have been working to overcome ever since. That has required increased borrowing, but, as City Councilor Justin Wilson’s recent letter (“Clearing the air on debt policy,” August 6) pointed out, Alexandria’s debt is still less than that of our neighbors and within our conservative borrowing guidelines.

Just like at the federal and state levels, local government investment in needed infrastructure is one of the wisest investments those governments can make, and borrowing is a necessary and appropriate way to help pay for that investment.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated earlier this year: “There are sound reasons that states and localities borrow to pay for infrastructure, rather than use annual tax collections and other revenues.

“Public buildings, roads and bridges are used for decades but entail large upfront costs; borrowing enables them to spread out those costs. As a result, taxpayers who will use the infrastructure in the future help pay for it, which promotes intergenerational equity.”

It is totally reasonable to ask future residents of Alexandria to help pay for these investments. There are many examples of governments taking borrowing too far and burdening future generations with too much. But we are far from that point here in Alexandria.

Instead, we are embarked on a prudent capital investment program that is both reducing our infrastructure deficit and improving the quality of life for current and future residents of Alexandria.