City Debt a Concern

City Debt a Concern

Editor, News-Register:


One only has to look at our national debt, which was $22,026,919,403,453.14 at the time I wrote this letter on Thursday, April 25, 2019, to feel detached from reality. I’ve never seen numbers that high, but I believe it is trillions of dollars, and it is growing substantially on an hourly basis. I guess I’m like a majority of taxpayers; I avoid thinking about the national debt. I don’t want to think it has anything to do with me, when in fact it is our debt — yes you and I. If truth be told, I’m frightened to think what will happen when all those “chickens come home to roost,” and I’m glad I’m as old as I am so I won’t have to live through the consequences when our economy will surely collapse, and we have to “pay the piper.”

The best analogy I’ve come up with, in describing the national debt, is putting air (debt) into a balloon, and the more air (debt) that is added, the more the balloon is stretched to its limits. Common sense and logic tells us that when the balloon can no longer accept any more air (debt), it will explode.

Now look at what is being proposed by some of our political leaders on the national level: free health care for all, free housing, free cell phones, free college tuition, expanded welfare benefits, subsidies, etc.. If you look at these proposals, and in some cases existing entitlement programs, more air (debt) is being forced into the balloon, and you have to be a fool not to recognize what the end result will be (Boom!). All of this debt can be attributed to poor money management, and tax and spend practices on the national level.

How does that apply to the poor money management practices of the city of Wheeling? Well, to answer that question we first need to know how much the city’s long- term debt really is. So on Thursday, April 25th, I sent the city of Wheeling’s Chief Financial Officer (Seth McIntyre) an email requesting that information. I met briefly with Seth, however he was reluctant to just give me a straightforward answer by giving me a dollar figure of the city’s long-term debt. Instead he provided me with a website to visit (wvsao.gov then type in Wheeling). Being paranoid as I am, I felt this was just a delaying tactic on the part of the city in hopes I wouldn’t (a) take the time to visit the site, (b) wouldn’t be able to navigate the site, or (c) be confused by all the numbers and data that I would either give up or report inaccurate information. I found out he was right in his assumptions, and found myself reaching out to the state auditor’s office and speaking with a gentleman that was extremely courteous and helpful. To my question “what is the city of Wheeling’s long term debt?” he gave me a couple of figures that make up the debt. If I understood him correctly the City has a long term debt of $159,526,407 as of June 2018. Just think about that for a minute. Does that sound like responsible money management and more importantly, is that much debt something we the taxpayers of Wheeling should be concerned with? People smarter than me will have to address and answer those questions. You and I both know that when we borrow money we have to pay interest on the principal until the debt is retired. I wonder how much that is on a yearly basis?

Why in the world would we want to accumulate more debt, for a parking garage and a public safety building that would add another estimated $35,000,000 before we have made a significant inroad into reducing the debt we have already accumulated?

Back to the national debt. Be honest, you and I, as well as our elected representatives, ignore the national debt! Our leaders bemoan the national debt and say it is unsustainable, but they continue to add additional air (debt) to the balloon. I don’t claim to know what the debt ceiling should be for Wheeling, I only know that a town of less than 27,000 people shouldn’t be asked to shoulder additional long-term debt until the existing debt is significantly reduced to a manageable level.

Maybe it comes down to asking the question: Does the city of Wheeling have a financial adviser, and if not, perhaps the city needs to consider hiring one. Draw your own conclusions, but I for one have a sinking feeling that there’s a reason no mention is ever made, by the city administration, of the city’s long-term debt.

They know, or suspect, that the voters would put a stop to their ridiculous ego-driven projects.

Robert Heinlein said it best: “There is no worst tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”

Hope Springs Eternal!

J. Jacobs



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