County Debt Will Top Half-Billion

August 17, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Kent County commissioners approve the aeronautics bond package for the new parking ramp at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport this week, the county’s outstanding debt will soon top a half-billion dollars.

The county began the year with $404 million in outstanding debt.

But as Fiscal Services Director Robert White recently noted, most of the debt service is being paid through user fees and dedicated taxes.

White said the building authority and capital improvement bonds are the only direct obligations the county currently has. Together those have an outstanding balance of about $104 million and an annual debt service this year of $7.3 million, money that comes from general tax receipts.

This year the county is making payments of $33.5 million to service all of its debt, with $26.2 million coming from dedicated taxes and user fees.

But the new Department of Human Services building the county plans to start building at the Sheldon Complex site on the city’s southeast side will add about $14.5 million next year to Kent’s direct obligations. The annual payment for those bonds hasn’t been calculated yet.

The airport bonds, which could creep close to or top $120 million and require an annual payment around $8 million, will be paid for by user fees.

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