The Columbia Council is waiting to receive a report on debt refinancing possibilities before considering hiring an independent consultant to evaluate the pros and cons of creating a public form of government.
The council expects to receive an analysis of refinancing scenarios by the end of this month from the Columbia Association's bond counsel, Piper & Marbury of Baltimore.
The law firm is analyzing whether the association could save money through refinancing its debt at lower interest rates under the unincorporated city's current structure, or whether savings could only be realized through converting to a public form of government.
Councilman David Berson of River Hill village recommended last night that the council seek professional advice from a government consultant rather than tackling an analysis of the legal, financial, political and administrative aspects involved in changing to a public form of government, if it wishes to pursue the matter.
"I don't think even with legal counsel we will be able to answer all the questions to make an informed decision," he said. "We need the best advice regardless of the cost. It might be expensive or it might not. But we need to make the best decision."
Council Vice Chairwoman Fran Wishnick of Oakland Mills village said that some issues concerning the administration of Columbia are "subjective" and can only be determined by polling residents and officials.
Some Columbia activists have advocated incorporating in some fashion -- either as a municipality or a special tax district -- to gain financial advantages afforded to public governments, such as lower interest rates for borrowing money and an ability to refinance debt.
A Columbia Forum panel that studied the issue estimated that the association could save about $25 million if it could refinance its $84 million debt as a municipality could. Some have questioned that number.
The panel, which was part of a forum studying Columbia's future, also said that residents could deduct the annual property charge from their income tax returns under a public form of government.