DALLAS — Voters in North Richland Hills, Texas, will decide May 12 on $48 million of general obligation bonds to build a new municipal complex in the Fort Worth suburb.
The City Council voted Monday night to set the election. It accepted recommendations from a 26-member citizens task force to relocate and consolidate city offices now located in six buildings. The proposed 180,000-square-foot facility would be built on the site of a shuttered shopping mall.
The new complex would house city offices, municipal courts, the police department and fire department administrators.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $70 million. The city of 63,000 would finance the remainder of the effort in part with proceeds from the sale of the sites of the facilities being replaced and with the $5 million of annual maintenance funds earmarked for their upkeep.
The task force also recommended deferring any bond-financed street renovations for at least three years.
Councilman Tom Lombard said North Richland Hills also expects a substantial reimbursement from the Texas Department of Transportation for municipal buildings affected by the widening of Interstate Loop 820, which runs through the city northeast of Fort Worth. North Richland Hills and TxDOT are litigating the size of the payout.
The city has $7 million of capital reserves, most of it coming from leases for gas drilling on city property and other one-time revenue, that could also be used.
North Richland Hills’ $93 million of outstanding GO debt is rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s. Support of the bonds would require an increase in the city’s property tax rate to $6.10 per $1,000 of assessed value from the current $5.70 per $1,000, where the rate has stood since 1993, according to Lombard.
The financial plan assumes a 1% increase in property valuations in North Richland Hills beginning in fiscal 2013, he said. The valuation is currently $3.6 billion. Approval of the bonds would raise the average annual property tax bill by $48.96, the city said.
The existing City Hall and police building will lose access to the front entrance and most of its parking spaces due to expansion of Loop 820, which is being widened from four lanes in each direction to a total of 14 lanes.
Lombard said the facilities panel looked at several options for relocating city hall, opting for an 80-acre site at the old mall.
“The task force came to the clear conclusion that there was a need for new municipal facilities to replace the old, cramped and outdated ones,” he said.
“The interest rate on municipal bonds is at the lowest level in years, but it is going to go up,” Lombard said. “Construction costs are low too, but they are going to go up. Delay will only result in higher costs.”