Steve Anderson’s concerns, while unusual coming from a Democrat, focus on widespread ire about public debt and proper governance.
The county commission has almost doubled the county debt in the last four years, from about $44 million to more than $81 million. With interest, that means residents are paying about as much for debt as they are for public works.
The bond financing has gone to pay for a library, part of the construction of a new county government building as well as flood infrastructure.* Two buildings, the Health Center and Senior Services Building in Clearfield and the Children's Justice Center in Farmington, were paid in cash.
The increased debt load means $267 in debt for every resident of the county, including children, Anderson points out. That's an increase of $99* per person since 2006, according to Davis County Auditor Steve Rawlings.
Anderson believes the funds might not be paid off for decades.
County Commissioner Louenda Downs defended her vote to increase the debt because the “silver lining”of the economic recession meant low interest rates and reduced construction costs. Her fellow commissioners agree, and said in a recent interview that the buildings would have had to be built anyway.
They also said that part of the money used for the new buildings comes from funds previous county commissions put away in their annual budgets.
Petroff said that he hopes to provide similar savings to future county commissioners by the budget decisions he has made, because they won’t have to fund new buildings.
The commissioner also vowed that his next term, if he is re-elected, would be his last.
Anderson disagrees with the idea that the bond debt that has been incurred makes for good debt, like a car for driving to work would in a family budget.
“You don’t need a Masarati, you need what’s adequate,” he said.
The comparison holds true for Anderson’s next point. Older cars, like older buildings, often need expensive repairs, he said. But the cost for repairs is often far less than the cost of replacement would be.
Anderson is concerned that the bond debt will be problematic in the future if Davis County stops growing, or if the federal government reduces its funding contributions or closes Hill Air Force Base.
He blames the problem, in part, on himself.
All the budgeting was done in public, and he did not take the time to be informed about what was going on or to speak out before the decisions were made, he admitted.
Getting residents involved in county government is therefore a major part of his campaign platform.
Even if Anderson doesn’t win, he said, he will consider his campaign efforts valuable if his raising of the public debt issue prevents future commissions from accruing even more debt.
But he plans on winning.
*This article has been amended to reflect that debt proceeds paid for flood infrastructure and a branch of the Davis County Library, not the Health Center and Services building in Clearfield. It also reflects that debt per-capita has increased by $99 since 2006, not more than $200.