Ruston alderman raises concern over city's spending on new sports complex

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RUSTON, La. (KNOE) - The new state of the art Ruston Sports Complex project is moving forward. One city alderman has a few concerns with the financial aspect, though.

Ruston Sports Complex is set to open the summer of 2019.

Jim Pearce says he believes the city is borrowing too much, too fast. Last week, the city council voted to pass an ordinance allowing the city to borrow a $10 million bond on April 1st.

Louisiana’s Bond Commission unanimously approved the city’s request to issue up to $20 million in sales tax revenue bonds to fund Phase II of the sports complex.

Phase II of the complex project is the last phase.

"I actually voted against it," Pearce said. "I did not want to borrow the money until we have plans."

Pearce was the only one to vote against it. He says right now the city only has an architect in place for Phase II. Pearce says he wanted to wait to borrow the money until the city got a price tag and plans.

"So, hopefully, we won't spend that much and be able to pay some of that back, because the actual hotel/restaurant tax, at present, is not generating enough income to make the bond payments," Pearce said.

The Moving Ruston Forward Tax covers Phase I of the project, while the Restaurant-Hotel Tax covers Phase II.

Mayor Ronny Walker says the city council passed the Hotel-Restaurant Tax in 2018.

"We passed two different taxes to cover all of this construction, so we haven't even touched our budget," Walker said.

Walker says the Hotel-Restaurant Tax has already brought in more than $125,000 for January.

The Hotel-Restaurant Tax combined with the excess Moving Ruston Forward Tax will bring in $3 million a year.

The bond payments are just over $2 million a year, so the city will see a surplus.

"We followed the advice of all of the professionals that we're required to hire," Walker said. "This is one of the few projects, that will we do as a city, that will pay for its self over and over again."

The complex is expected to open in the summer.

"I get very conservative when it comes to spending money; I like to slow up, catch our breath when it comes to spending the money," Pearce said.