Austin voters won’t see a proposal to authorize $275 million of general obligation bonds for a light-rail system on the November ballot, Mayor Lee Leffingwell said last week.
The proposal called for the bond proceeds to match $275 million in federal funds to finance the first phase of the light-rail system.
Leffingwell, who supports the plan to build a rail system, said the vote on the rail bonds will have to wait until uncertainty over the level of federal financing is cleared up.
“It’s become increasingly clear to me that some critical components of a successful system remain, at this point, uncomfortably uncertain,” Leffingwell said on his blog.
“In short, the potential for financial strain on Austin taxpayers is deeply worrisome to me,” he said.
The City Council is expected later this month to set a November election for up to $400 million of GO bonds for other civic efforts. Austin can issue that level of new debt without raising the property tax rate.
Capital Metro, which operates the city’s bus system, said the mayor’s decision to delay the bond election was prudent.
“With only five months away from a November ballot and many other competing priorities, we agree with the decision to allow more time to thoroughly plan and build consensus for an urban rail system that will meet the needs of Austin,” the agency said.
Leffingwell said he is committed to having an operational rail system by 2020.
“By taking these steps, I remain confident that we can and will bring urban rail to a public vote,” he wrote.
Austin’s general obligation debt is rated triple-A by all three rating agencies.