This comment by Coyote could apply in lots of situations, but it made me think specifically of the bond issue that was required to fix Tucson’s streets when their condition got too bad to ignore any longer:
Deferred maintenance is the way that agency's [sic] can borrow without transparency and without any outside authorization to do things like maintain staff in the face of cutbacks. In effect, the agency is borrowing against the infrastructure the public has built to help fund staffing levels and benefits. What is deferred maintenance? It is all kind of things. It is having one out of three toilets in a bathroom break and just roping it off rather than fixing it. It is allowing potholes to multiply in the road without repair. It is constantly chasing more and more leaks in an underground water line and not just replacing it. It is an acknowledgement that all manmade things have a fixed life. Take picnic tables. Let's say a type of picnic table in a campground, of which there might be hundreds, lasts about 10 years. That means a responsible person should budget to replace 10% every year. But what if we skip a year? No one will probably notice if some old tables slide from 10 to 11 years old, and we save some money. But really we are only borrowing that money, because we will need to do twice as many next year. But then we do it again the next year, to borrow more, and the bill just increases for the future. Before you know it, the NPS has $12 billion in deferred maintenance, a $12 billion debt for which there is little transparency and no legislative approval -- and the interest on which all of us in the public pay when we have to live with these deteriorating public facilities.
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