By Ashley Stanley
City Council members were briefed last week about the Citizens Bond Task Force’s and city staff’s recommendations for an $800 million bond program that will appear on November’s ballot.
Stop what you are doing and ask yourself this question: “Do I know what a municipal bond is?” Allow me a minute or two to explain what they are and how they work in layman’s terms.
Employee wages, public safety (police & fire), maintenance and supplies for water and sewer facilities, as well as utilities and insurance for public facilities, are just a handful of costs incurred by municipalities for the benefit of its residents. Municipalities fund these budgeted line items with residents’ tax payments and income from grants and revenue sharing with other governments. The problem is that expenses and income vary from year to year. Sales taxes can slump during periods, and government income can be sporadic. Property taxes come in the year following their assessment, although property tax revenues continue to increase.
Municipal bonds help cities pay for infrastructure, buildings, and maintenance that have been neglected for years, or in many cases, decades. The interest rate is determined by the city’s credit rating and current bond market. The city’s credit rating? Our credit rating has been lowered in recent years because of the police and fire pension crisis and condition of our infrastructure.
Now you know why better (much better) city leadership is so important. And how it affects your property values.
As citizens, our pocket books bear the brunt of poor leadership. The only money any government has to spend comes from its citizens. Which reminds me, did you protest your property taxes this year? Any homeowner or property owner can protest, even if their taxes did not go up. I hope you did, because our best defense against poor city staff’s decisions is to protest the highest tax rate we’ve ever experienced, and it’s quickly growing.
The bond program is an instrument cities use to finance major capital projects like schools, highways, and sewer systems. Or in Dallas’ case, streets, parks and trails, flood protection and storm drainage, critical facilities, economic development, and housing.
Sounds like we have a promising future, right? Wrong. And here is why.
If you know me, it comes as no surprise I believe Mayor Mike Rawlings is not the leader Dallas needs. And the jury is still out on our new city manager, T.C. Broadnax. I am not a journalist or a political strategist, and I’ve never claimed to have insider information while hiding behind a pseudonym like Wylie H. Dallas. I am just an active and concerned citizen. I live and work in District 14, represented by Philip Kingston on the Dallas City Council. What I know from being an engaged community member is we have a voice when we show up.
Dallas city council members were briefed last week about the Citizens Bond Task Force’s and city staff’s recommendations.
But wait! Didn’t Rawlings’ horseshoe suffer a huge upset over the weekend with a run-off election? Indeed, yes! Districts 6, 7, and 8 have a new representative in each seat, along with a change District 4 from the regular election in May. The run-offs were a game changer for Dallas. So most of the information collected from the citizen town hall meetings to the task force, which was ultimately thrown out because city staff thinks they know better, fell on deaf ears. Three of those Council Members are history.
Council member Carolyn Arnold will be replaced by returning former council member Dwaine Caraway. Before her departure, she repeatedly said in the council briefing that we need to consider “people over property.” Her district represents southern Dallas, and she wanted it to be known her focus is always on her constituents versus property values like her colleagues in north Dallas. She will now transition into a citizen’s voice. But what will Caraway’s platform be? Caraway was supported by police and fire, if that is an indication.
City manager Broadnax explained during the bond briefing that every $10 million in bond funds costs the city approximately $1 million in debt service annually over 20 years. So that means an $800 million bond program will actually cost taxpayers around $1.6 billion. Ouch. Wouldn’t it behoove us as taxpayers who will pay for this mega amount of financed money to become more active and, may I be so bold to say, aware? We owe it to ourselves to lean in to the city’s efforts to create a better Dallas that doesn’t break the bank. Or us.