LARGO - It turns out that the vehement declaration by City Manager Steve Stanton at the City Commission's January 16 meeting that the city had absolutely no debt may not be true.
To the contrary, as pointed out by the former mayor, Bob Jackson.
A citizen named Jimmy Dean asked the question during citizen comments - does the city of Largo have any debt?
That was the world's biggest stumper to Mayor Pat Gerard. She didn't have the foggiest notion.
But Stanton leaped to the fore to answer the question and did so in a manner that demonstrated that he was annoyed with such a pesky query.
His words were emphatic, uttered whip-like.
"There is no general obligation debt. Nothing. Zero. Nada."
Dean, the citizen questioner, seemed surprised but also appeared to accept the most emphatic answer with pleasure and gratitude.
But a check by Jackson of the 2007-2008 city budget manual found (on page Fin 48) that debt exists for the city in several varieties.
One of the most obvious, and should be clear to everyone because of all the controversy that surrounded its genesis, is the debt incurred to build the city's $23 million library.
Much of the money for that was borrowed and is being paid off with Penny for Pinellas funds, not all of which have reached the Largo treasury yet.
According to what Jackson unearthed, there is total sewer fund debt of $27,218,516.
Add on to that $600,000 in something called "public works property loan," and then the library obligations account for another $8,405,504 for a total of non-sewer debt of $9,004,504.
In all, the total debt adds up to $36,223,020 - not exactly chump change.
Put that debt in easy to understand terms - for example, if it had to be paid off instantly tomorrow every man woman and child in Largo would have to cough up $500.
It appears that Stanton was wrong in his answer to the citizen.
But more significant is the fact that the mayor of the city had no idea (or any concern for that matter) of what debt the city has.
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