Afraid of rising interest rates, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to borrow $20 million for road projects.
They don’t have a list of how the money will be spent. But they voted unanimously to go ahead and start the process of issuing bonds, which is one way the county borrows money.
Supervisor Troy Ross told his fellow supervisors the county needs to go ahead now, because “the economy is going to start soaring and interest rates will go up” as Trump goes into office.
“I want to lock something in,” Ross told the board, “borrow and then decide how to spend it. ... I’m afraid of the new prosperity.”
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Economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its meeting next week and to follow up with two more rate increases next year, the Associated Press reports. Experts fear the Trump administration’s efforts to jump start the economy will cause interest rates to increase faster than expected. Higher interest rates and inflation would hurt the price of bonds.
Ross suggested borrowing $14 million, which would cost the county about the same it’s been spending on a $10 million bond issue being paid off this year.
Two board members didn’t like the idea of borrowing without deciding what projects the county would spend the money on. Ken Taylor and Melton Harris said they were afraid their districts would be shorted and not get money for projects they need.
Taylor and Harris pointed out that two projects alone — Old Fort Bayou Road and a dam project in the Lake O Pines subdivision in Vancleave — would take up more than half of the $14 million.
After discussion, Supervisor Barry Cumbest suggested the county up the amount borrowed to $20 million.
Ross made the final motion, and the vote was unanimous.
He said his focus is really to guarantee money for the $5.6 million Old Fort Bayou Road project “that has been promised for 30 years.” He said the county had a chance to finally do it in 1997 and blew it. He said he has been working on it for five years.
Supervisor Randy Bosarge supported him, saying that St. Martin, with Old Fort Bayou Road and county schools, is set to grow by hundreds of homes in the next few years. He said money spent on the road improvements will be paid for with new home property taxes going on the county rolls.