(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is reprinted from the Weston Chronicle with permission. It ran in the Dec. 5, 2018 issue of the Chronicle under the headline “No bond payment made by Platte County”)
‘I assumed these guys were business people’
he Dec. 1 deadline for making good on a payment for bonds that financed the parking garages owned by Platte County at Zona Rosa came and went without a payment from Platte County.
“I have not been authorized or instructed to make any payments,” said county treasurer Rob Willard. “The courts are dealing with it now. I believe there was a good faith effort to address this.”
On Nov. 30, 2018, Judge James Van Amburg, presiding judge of the circuit court of Platte County, denied a motion filed by UMB Bank, the trustee for the Zona Rosa bonds, seeking an injunction to require Platte County, Missouri to pay the 2018 shortfalls on the Zona Rosa bonds.
Platte County is continuing to pursue its declaratory judgment action filed Nov. 2, 2018. Todd Graves, attorney for the county in this matter, said two weeks ago that they hoped to have an expedited hearing before the end of the year. Instead, Judge Van Amburg set a bench trial for May 24, 2019.
From a bond holder’s perspective, Platte County has defaulted on a promise to pay the bonds if there are not enough sales taxes collected by the Transportation Development District for that purpose. The amount due on Dec. 1 was $1,409,750.
The trustee for the bonds had received less than $400,000 in July and August. There has been no update on the amount sent to the trustee.
On Tuesday, former Second District Platte County Commissioner Steve Wegner talked about how he, Betty Knight and Michael Short tried to protect the county’s credit rating while they were commissioners. He was defeated in a reelection campaign 14 years ago.
“I assumed these guys were business people,” he said of the present commissioners.
“If you need to build something, you want to borrow and pay the least amount of interest you can.
“They are so ideological about government and taxes being evil,” he continued. “I always felt taxes were for the betterment of the county and the people.
“They have embarrassed the (Republican) party.”
He noted that the commissioners have talked about an expansion of the county jail.
“Defaulting on this is a misuse of taxpayer money,” he said. “There is no way they’ll get a loan at a good interest rate, if they can even sell the bonds.”
He said the Zona Rosa project had primed the pump for Platte County. “It enhanced the financial condition of the county,” he said. “Before it went in, we had more sales tax going out of the county than coming in.”
He added that Platte County receives not only sales taxes from the development but property taxes as well.
As a contrast, Clay County recently received word that Moody’s Investor Services upgraded the County’s Issuer Credit Rating (ICR) to AA1 in October.
Moody’s has monitored trends and county financial management over the past four years and this is the result. According to Commissioner Luann Ridgeway, only one other first class county in Missouri has Aa1 (Boone County); one fire district, five school districts; five cities; one library district and one community college.