DALLAS — An Austin citizens bond development committee must cut by more than half a list of potential projects to be financed by a general obligation bond package going to voters in November.
The list presented to the 15-member committee Feb. 16 carries a total price tag of $1.49 billion for the 124 projects proposed by city departments.
Four subcommittees will hold public hearings on the project list, and the full committee will make its recommendations to the City Council in June.
The council is expected in August to set the final project list for the Nov. 6 election.
The City Council directed the bond panel last year to develop a slate of three project lists ranging from $200 million to $400 million.
Austin’s property tax rate of $0.4811 per $100 of assessed value can support $385 million of new GO debt without an increase in the 12.6 cents of the tax rate now going to debt service.
Austin’s $1.2 billion of outstanding GO bonds are rated triple-A by all three major agencies.
Deputy finance director Greg Canally said in December that a one-cent increase in the property tax rate would allow the city to issue $500 million of additional GO debt, while a three-cent increase would raise the cap to $725 million.
Mike Trimble, director of the capital planning office, said the projects on the list could be completed and operational in five to seven years.
The $1.49 billion of capital needs unveiled to the advisory committee last week includes $441 million for Austin facilities, $275 million for transportation, $221 million for public works, $75 million for low-income housing and $50 million of land acquisition for watershed protection.
Trimble told the committee that additional projects will be suggested at the public hearings. He said the planning staff rated the projects based on criteria mandated by council.
“This is information you can use to start deliberations,” he said. “This is definitely a beginning and not an ending.”
Trimble said a summary list of projects that met at least one of the council’s four standards would cost $403 million.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell said he did not want to devote all of the 2012 bond package to the infrastructure project list in order to reserve some capacity so the city could begin work on an urban rail system.
Leffingwell postponed plans for a rail bond vote in 2010 in favor of a potential 2013 election. When the bond advisory committee was formed in October 2011, Leffingwell said bonds for the rail effort should be included in the November 2012 GO election.
No specifics have been set for the rail request but it is expected to be between $150 million and $250 million for the city’s share of the first phase of the rail project.
The proposed 16.5-mile system would connect central Austin and the University of Texas and state capitol complex with Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Total cost is estimated at $1.5 billion, of which city officials expect to finance at least half with federal grants and other sources.