DALLAS – Public hearings will begin later this month in Fort Worth, Texas, and continue through November as the city prepares for a $293 million bond referendum in May 2014.

The schedule calls for a decision on the final project list by the City Council in December and adoption of an election ordinance by Feb. 11, 2014. The election will be held May 10.

The bond project list was whittled from more than $2 billion in staff recommendations, Mayor Betsy Price said.

“We don’t have a huge amount of bond capacity, so we’re going to have to all try to find some common ground and compromises,” Price said at a council session last week. “It’s critical we get this right.”

The city had expected to be able to ask for $242 million of new GO authorization, but lower interest rates and an increase in property valuations boosted the outlook.  Assessed valuation rose to $42.1 billion in fiscal 2013.

Approval of the bonds will not require an increase in the Fort Worth’s property tax. The Council voted last year to shift a portion of the property tax to debt service from operations to support additional debt.

Fort Worth’s $600 million of outstanding GO debt is rated Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.

The current plan includes $206 million for streets, $22.3 million for city facilities, $22.2 million for parks, $19 million for economic development, $9 million for library and municipal court projects, and $9 million for public safety efforts. A city ordinance requires that 2% of the project total, or about $6 million, is dedicated to public art.

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