Many questions remain

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The issue: The $12.3 million bond issue that voters will decide.

Our position: We still don’t have the facts.

Monday night’s Selma City Council meeting did little to put our minds at ease about the upcoming bond issue.

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We went in seeking clarity, and came out more confused about the rush to jump into the matter.

We’re not against the proposed improvements inthe city. We believe the city needs to have better facilities, streets, equipment, law enforcement, and, within reason, better quality of life.

But rushing into a bond issue without laying proper groundwork is irresponsible.

As of Oct. 29, the city had a list of capital obligations: general government bonds issued in 1975, 1997, 2000 and 2003; vehicles and equipment for various departments, including public works, recreation, the fire department, cemetery, building inspector, police department and landfill, totaling $7.532 million. The city’s largest debt, a general obligation bond issued in February 2000,

won’t be paid off until Feb. 1, 2014 &045; seven years from now.

The next payoff will come in 2009. It’ll take $11,616.17 off the books. Not much when someone speaks of millions.

Add $12.3 million to this debt of $7.532 million, which totals about $19.8 million. That’s not too far from the state’s allowable limit of $23 million.

When voters consider the bond issue, they also need to consider how that money gets raised.

Sales taxes are variable. Take for instance, sales taxes alone for October are $82,150.04 less than they were this time last year. Sales taxes for 2007 came up $145,433.09 less than for 2006. Those figures are without lodging, gasoline and tobacco included.

Lodging taxes collected in Selma also were down in 2007, compared to 2006 by $9,451.67.

Movie theaters, riverwalks, ballfield lights, equipment for projects and cameras to keep a watch for thieves are all fine if you have the money.

Unless somebody can prove differently, though, Selma is in a slump. People aren’t spending as much money. People aren’t staying in the hotels here as frequently.

That’s what the figures say.

Question is: Will we listen?

The Zeta Eta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. provides books for boys and girls through the Reading is Fun program.

Each year they provide at least three distributions &045; Christmas, Presidents’ Day in February and in June or July.

Nancy Sewell started this program back in 2000 when she was a council member.

Monday night, she publicly reminded city officials of their special invitations.

Under the auspices of Reading is Fundamental, the local AKAs will hold a Reading is Fun Day from 10 until noon, Dec. 15, at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center.

Santa Claus will be there. So will Council member Jean Martin, who always reads &8220;The Night Before Christmas.&8221; Other council members have been invited to come, take a seat in a rocker and share a book with children, who range from pre-k through the sixth grade.

Most importantly, the children will be there. Parents are encouraged to bring out their children and enjoy storybook characters such as Clifford, the big Red Dog, Curious George the monkey, Franklin the turtle and a world of others.

Each child will have the opportunity to choose a book for his or her very own.

Reading is so important. People who read can accomplish almost anything.

Good reading habits begin early. Studies show that children who are exposed to reading and books at an earlier age have better vocabulary skills, read better themselves, have better social skills and are generally well adjusted.

We applaud the members of Zeta Eta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. We are grateful for public servants, who also happen to be retired school librarians like Sewell. The children of Selma and Dallas County are all the better for their efforts.