November 21, 2011
Under my leadership as Comptroller, this year the City's credit rating of A+ was reaffirmed by Standard and Poors. Moody's and Fitch also reaffirmed the City's A category credit rating. This is good news for the City during these tough economic times. But, as the city faces budget challenges in the coming weeks much of its financial and operating flexibility is at risk.
As Comptroller, it is my job to protect the City's credit as well as to exercise prudent stewardship over city funds. That is why I opposed the bond issue for Forest Park and other parks. I believe that it is more fiscally responsible to produce a pay-as-you-go program for park repair and maintenance than to obligate the city to pay debt service for bonds. Moreover, I made my opposition known first last winter when first approached about the park plan and again this fall when the plan came back up. Additionally, Moody's reports the city has "high debt levels characterized by significant lease revenue debt".
It was no secret that the reason the park plan did not hit the agenda for October or November Board of Estimate and Apportionment meetings was the Comptroller's opposition. There were earnest discussions being held on the subject between all the parties involved. No last minute response from my office occurred. In those discussions my support for the proposed Forest Park endowment was strong, while I supported more fiscally responsible alternatives over bonds.
My opposition on the bonds is supported by the city Budget Director and the city's financial advisors. Major financing decisions are not made in a vacuum. Budget challenges in the coming weeks will be affected by the proposed issuance of park bonds.
In light of the need to continue to repair and maintain our city parks, including Forest Park, the jewel of the city, I strongly support the proposed Forest Park endowment. I will work with city leaders to mitigate the loss of financial and operating flexibility.
As a city leader I am no more important than the people I serve and the actions I take to protect city taxpayers support that. I remain committed to generating revenue for the City of St. Louis, safeguarding the city's credit rating and ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
Comptroller Darlene Green
Office of the Comptroller
Parks and Gardens