ZACHARY — Voters in the city of Zachary who cast ballots in the Nov. 6 presidential election also may vote on a proposal to make it easier for the City Council to borrow money for utility system improvements.
State law allows municipalities to borrow money against future utility revenues without voter approval, but Zachary’s home-rule charter requires an election on the question of incurring such debt.
Approval of the proposed charter amendment would allow Zachary to issue bonds repayable through future utility revenues without an election but subject to other provisions of state law, including approval by the State Bond Commission.
Bonds backed by property or sales taxes still would require voter approval, according to state law.
“We’d still have to go to the Bond Commission and show that we can pay it back,” Mayor David Amrhein said.
Early voting for the election will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Oct. 23-30, except for Oct. 28.
Zachary and other East Baton Rouge Parish residents may cast early ballots at the Governmental Building, 222 St. Louis St., Room 201; the Court Plaza Building, 10500 Coursey Blvd., Room 203; the Motor Vehicle Building in Baker, 2250 Main St.; and the Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane.
Amrhein and the City Council decided to ask for the charter change after getting voter approval last year to borrow $9.3 million at less than 1 percent interest from the state Department of Environmental Quality to upgrade the city’s sewer system.
The home-rule charter provision makes it difficult to quickly take advantage of low-interest rate loan offers for utility improvements because it takes at least six months to go through the steps to hold a special election, Amrhein said.
“We’re looking at borrowing another $5 million at 0.95 percent interest if this passes,” Amrhein said.
, adding that he and the council want to do $30 million to $35 million in infrastructure improvements in the coming years “to catch up.”