Lubbock, Texas's City Council voted Monday to finance a $60 million public safety improvements project starting as soon as this fiscal year.
The project includes the construction of three police substations spread throughout the city, and a new police headquarters downtown. It also includes building a new police property warehouse and a new facility for municipal court. The project will decentralize Lubbock's Police Department in an effort to create what the police chief calls "community policing."
The price tag is projected to add three cents to the city's property tax rate. For a median Lubbock home of $140,800, this would amount to an annual impact of $42.20 a year. City staff and council members hosted several open houses on this project and the majority of attendees favored the project, according to the city.
At Monday's meeting, the council voted 4-3 to debt-fund the project without bringing it to a public vote. The resolution expresses the city's intent to issue bonds in the spring of 2018 and authorizes the necessary public notifications.
The three votes against the resolution were not votes against the project, but votes against the way it's being funded. That was expressed each by Mayor Dan Pope and council members Juan Chadis and Steve Massengale.
"I'm proud of this plan, I think there's many good aspects about it," said Massengale. "I think this is one of those projects that we should include our citizens in, but please don't consider my vote against certificates of obligation (bonds) as my lack of support for the project. I fully support the project."
Those who voted for it said public safety is something the council is tasked with, and said it's time the city get this done for police. They said the public is in favor of it and expressed an urgency to get it done.
"We need to move on this," Mayor Pro Tem Latrelle Joy said.
Pope called it an exciting project, saying he took a tour of the current police facility two decades ago and even then it was being said that police needed new facilities.
"The mayor serves two years, that's how the term works. If I serve for two years and get voted out of office then I'll be proud to talk about this until the day I die," Pope said. "I think it's the right thing to do. I'd like the citizens to vote for this because I believe the citizens would say yes and we could all get behind something... but I'm really excited about this."
The actual issuance of the bonds will need to get approved at a later date.
City staff said the plan is to issue bonds in two phases. The first issuance, projected to be in May 2018, will be for $10 million at 10 years pay-back for "seed" money for things like purchasing property and the design and engineering services. This would add about 1 cent to the city's tax rate the following budget cycle. The second issuance, likely the following year would be for $50 million at 20 years pay-back for the actual construction of the buildings. After that is when the full 3 cents would be on the tax rate. The city says splitting the two would save the city a projected $2.5 million in interest.