Regional News

Dallas Will Weigh Up To $550M

DALLAS — Dallas voters can expect a November election for a general obligation bond package of up to $550 million that was outlined Wednesday to the City Council.

City Manager Mary Suhm said the current property base could support $450 million to $550 million of new debt without a tax increase.

Suhm said staff has recommended a five-year capital improvement program that would focus on streets, flood protection and drainage, and economic development to stimulate private investment and job growth.

Spending for parks, libraries and city facilities probably will have to wait until the city’s next bond proposal in 2015 or 2016, she said.

The current property tax rate of $0.797 per $100 of assessed value includes $0.2591 for debt service and $0.5379 for operations and general fund expenditures.

The property tax base has eroded almost 10% over the past three years. Assessments totaled $82 billion in fiscal 2012, down from a high of $90.5 billion in fiscal 2009.

Projections show a return to $90.5 billion of taxable property by fiscal 2017 under the best scenario, Suhm said, with a dip and then a slow rise to $82.4 billion by then if the economy slips.

“We’ll have more information on 2013 property values by May,” Suhm said. “If there is significant growth, then the bond package could be bigger and the next one could be sooner.”

Dallas normally calls a bond election every six years. But if capacity is available from unanticipated growth in property values, Suhm said, the city could schedule the next election in 2014 or 2015.

“I’m not optimistic that the ultimate capacity this time will be higher than $550 million,” she said. “If the information we get from the appraisal district shows we were over-optimistic on revenue growth, we’ll dial the program back.”

With limited growth in capacity expected in the short term, few of the proposed 2012 bonds would be issued in the first two years of the five-year program.

The election schedule calls for public hearings and City Council briefings through June, with the council approving the final package in August for a November vote.

Suhm said Dallas has a $10 billion capital project backlog. Of that, streets, flood protection and economic development proposals total $6 billion, she said.

Dallas has $1.8 billion of outstanding GO debt rated AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s and Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service.

Since fiscal 2011, Dallas has used a $350 million commercial paper program to finance bond projects while under construction. The city issues GO bonds to reimburse the CP program as work is completed.

Voters approved a $1.35 billion GO bond package in November 2006. Dallas has issued or dedicated $672.6 million and expects to award in 2012 another $301 million of contracts for bond projects, Suhm said. More than 90% of the work in the 2006 program is completed or under way, she said.

The city will continue to issue debt from the $610.3 million of authorized but unissued bonds from the 2006 vote. Most of the money is already dedicated to projects in the three areas of concentration suggested by the staff, Suhm said.



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