Debt can be good if managed

Published 12:02 am Sunday, September 9, 2012

Natchez and Adams County taxpayers are on the hook for more than $30 million between city and county government — and that’s not counting the remaining debt of the county-owned hospital.

Debt on its own is not always a bad thing.

Most American families and a great many businesses use debt to help them make large purchases and even operate during lean times.

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But debt must be managed carefully to avoid it becoming a controlling factor in one’s life or business.

Public discussion of debt — understanding the purpose of the debt, when it will be paid off, how it will be paid off and what happens if the funding source begins to dry up — is critical.

Without careful management, debt can quickly grow or simply linger around far too long.

As Mayor Butch Brown suggested, the past three city administrations obviously didn’t pay much attention to debt.

How else can the massive debt that remains on the Natchez Convention Center be explained?

In 13 years, the city has paid only $1.8 million in principal on the debt. The original $12 million has only been whittled down to $10.2 million, with huge payments still to come.

Continual refinancing with two separate bond-swap arrangements has extended the debt’s life far longer than was necessary.

Good leadership in the city and county can make a huge difference going forward to avoid further debt stumbles.

More important, however, is having a public that asks lots of questions, pays attention to what’s going on with city and county government and throws up a red flag when something just doesn’t make common, financial sense.