PERTH AMBOY — Official records cast serious doubt on Mayor Wilda Diaz’s signature campaign issue, her claim that she reduced the municipal debt by $54 million.
“I’m the mayor who had to deal with a $250 million debt, which we paid down by $54 million,” said Diaz as recently as Tuesday, but reports on file with the state conflict with that assertion.
Annual debt statements filed by the city show that five months before Wilda Diaz was elected, the city owed a total of $181 million. Perth Amboy now owes close to $230 million as the mayor heads into a hotly contested re-election effort.
The city’s debt never reached the $250 million mark and today it is significantly greater than it was when Diaz moved into City Hall, four and a half years ago. The same records also show Diaz never paid down by $54 million.
Observers speculate the incumbent Mayor is staking her false claim on benefits derived from refinancing old debt at lower interest rates, which is far different than ‘paying down’ principal.
Diaz Buried City In Debt
“Wilda Diaz buried Perth Amboy in debt, but she claims that she reduced the indebtedness by $54 million,” said Billy Delgado. “When a mayor does not tell the truth, voters can only draw the conclusion that she is unqualified for the job.”
“With a record of signing five tax hikes in four years, Diaz did not even fight to stop an $8 million tax refund to Chevron,” said Delgado. “Only months after city officials agreed to reduce the oil giant’s assessed property value of $220 million by nearly half, the company sold its refinery for $260 million.”
Delgado said Diaz also agreed to an $1.8 million give-back to billionaire real estate mogul Charles Kushner, instead of enforcing the developer’s agreement that called for a waterfront hotel and parks, marina, civic center and 2,100 residential units.
“Is the mayor’s financial literacy is insufficient for her to understand what it means pay off debt as opposed to replacing a high interest rate through refinancing?” asked Delgado.
“Either the Mayor is intentionally confusing the residents or she cannot distinguish what it means to pay off debt as opposed to replacing a high interest rate through refinancing,” said Delgado
Proof Posted Online
Copies of actual debt statements obtained from the state are posted at http://njtoday.net/padebtscam/ and they confirm that five months before Diaz was elected on May 13, 2008, the city owed bondholders about $181 million.
Today, taxpayers are in debt by about $230 million, including nearly $220 million shown outstanding on the last debt statement, which was filed Dec. 31, 2011, plus funds borrowed to refund nearly $10 million due as a result of tax appeals from Chevron and the Landings at Harborside.
“A typical bond consists of a fixed amount of money, called the principal sum, loaned for a fixed period of time,” said Delgado. “The price paid for borrowing is called interest. Changing the interest rate might influence the total cost of a bond deal, but it is not the same as reducing the principal.”