DALLAS — Voters in the Dallas suburb of Frisco will have an opportunity in May to reconsider a September 2002 vote authorizing $19 million of general obligation bonds for a regional arts center.
The Frisco City Council voted 4-2 on Wednesday to ask voters on May 14 whether the city should issue the remaining $16.4 million of bonds from the authorization.
The Frisco bonds were approved in 2002 by a margin of 1,624 to 779 as part of a proposed four-city effort to build a $90 million arts hall in nearby Allen.
However, voters in McKinney, one of the four cities, rejected bonds for the arts hall project. Frisco officials said during the campaign that it would not participate without all four partners, but in 2003 the council voted to go ahead, along with Allen and Plano.
The Frisco council twice in 2010 rejected petitioners’ requests for a revote on the bonds.
The three cities each have issued $2.7 million of bonds from their separate authorizations for the arts hall sponsored by the nonprofit Arts of Collin County, which is raising private donations for the facility.
The arts group last year asked the three cities to issue the remaining bonds for the project to take advantage of low construction costs. Frisco declined and no bonds were sold.
The Frisco Tea Party submitted petitions in June 2010 seeking to force an election on the arts center bonds, but the city charter does not allow a referendum on unissued debt. However, Texas law provides for a referendum on whether to revoke bonds if they are not sold within 10 years of the authorizing election.
City Council member Scott Johnson said he wanted to put the measure on the May ballot because an election to revoke the bonds would be inevitable in 2012. The controversy over the arts center bonds has already been going on too long, he said.
“I’m convinced that this community will never move forward if this hangs around as an issue and as a noose around our neck,” Johnson said at the session, which began Tuesday night and extended into early Wednesday morning.
Lorie Medina of the Frisco Tea Party said city leaders should have opted out of the arts hall project nine years ago when McKinney did not join the effort.
“The issue is, the project has changed,” she said. “We feel like the voters, the citizens, they should have the right to make a decision on whether or not this is a package or program that we want to continue.”
Mike Simpson, executive director of Arts of Collin County and a former Frisco mayor, said the non-participation of McKinney had little effect on Frisco’s costs. If the center opens as planned in 2013, he said, Frisco’s share of the operating budget would be $370,000 a year. That’s $80,000 more a year than if McKinney was involved.
“It’s not a large amount of money when you’re looking at the cost of operation on other services that the city provides and other venues that the city has,” Simpson said. “I believe that they are making a large amount of noise over a relatively small amount of dollars.”
The estimated cost of the 2,100-seat arts hall is currently $65.7 million, down 23% from the original proposal.
Frisco’s $680 million of outstanding GO debt is rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s.