Nov 10, 2022 - Politics

The impact of Columbus' new $1.5 billion bond package

Illustration of Columbus City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Mayor Andrew Ginther believes the next 15 years could be among the most consequential in city history.

What's happening: Columbus is growing rapidly, having added 100,000 people in the last decade, with even more expected in the coming years.

  • A $1.5 billion bond package approved at the polls Tuesday ensures the city can continue providing essential services to this influx of residents, Ginther tells Axios.

Why it matters: The funds will help maintain everything from parks and playgrounds to sidewalks, streets and sewer systems, while also supporting new facilities, such as a replacement county courthouse.

  • The five-part package also includes a $200 million investment in affordable housing initiatives, the largest in city history.

The intrigue: Unlike most tax issues, the bond package is unlikely to ever increase residents' property tax bills.

  • The yes vote gives the city permission to borrow money, which it then pays back using a portion of income taxes paid by people who work within city limits, plus a part of residents' utility bills.
  • The only way property taxes would increase is if those revenue streams can't cover costs. That hasn't happened since the arrangement started in 1956, Ginther says.

What they're saying: "This growth we're going to see, it's going to be dynamic," Ginther tells Axios. He's well aware that many mayors would love to have this problem.

  • "I don’t view it as a challenge; I view it as an incredible opportunity," he says. "But it does require us to plan for and invest in our future."

The package includes:

πŸš“ Health, safety and infrastructure, $300 million

  • A majority of these funds β€” $219 million β€” go toward the new downtown courthouse.
  • Also funds fire vehicle replacements and police and fire facility improvements.

🌳 Recreation and parks, $200 million

  • Improvements for parks, playgrounds, bikeways and recreation centers, including installing air-conditioning in six facilities.

🏘️ Neighborhood development, $200 million

  • $130 million toward construction of affordable rental units and homes.
  • Also funds programs and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.

🚢 Public service, $250 million

  • Pedestrian safety and sidewalk improvements, bridge rehabilitation, and street and alley resurfacing.

πŸ’‘ Public utilities, $550 million

  • Improving and maintaining water, sewer, stormwater, electric and street lighting systems.

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