Dallas City Council members clash over $1B bond package

The $150M earmarked for housing may be the dealbreaker

Assistant City Manager Robert Perez and Dallas council member Paula Blackmon (Dallas City Hall, Getty)
Assistant City Manager Robert Perez and Dallas council member Paula Blackmon (Dallas City Hall, Getty)

The Dallas City Council is divided over a proposed $1 billion bond package.

The draft plan, presented to City Council members on Wednesday, includes millions in funding for infrastructure, housing, economic development, flood protection and community services.

Voters have approved three previous $1 billion bond measures, in 2017, 2012 and 2006 according to the Dallas Morning News. However, city council members are reportedly split on the latest proposal.

Assistant City Manager Robert Perez said that, ideally, the city should be 99 percent completed with the projects funded by the 2017 bond issue by 2024, when the next funding package would go before the voters.

The current proposal would provide $325 million for street sidewalk repair, $150 million for housing infrastructure improvements, $43.8 million for flood protections and $10 million to provide homeless services, among other projects.

None of the allocations are set in stone and the proposal was brought “for discussion purposes only,” according to the director of the Office of Bond and Construction Management, Adriana Castaneda. The only difference between the 2017 bond package and the one presented this week is $150 million earmarked for housing infrastructure improvements, she said.

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Despite parts of southern Dallas lacking access to the city’s water and wastewater systems, a growing homeless population, poor transportation infrastructure, and more than 2,000 miles of missing or broken sidewalks, several council members were adamantly opposed to the proposed bond package.

Opposing members said they wanted no money to be devoted toward building more homes or addressing neighborhood environmental harms or climate change. Instead, they suggested putting $85 million from the general fund toward repairing existing city buildings. Last February, council members shut down a hastily proposed $300 million bond intended solely for street and traffic signal improvements.

“Are we maxing out the credit card?” council member Paula Blackmon asked.

“We have to maintain a reasonable balance in the debt service fund in case anything went wrong, but it’s at the capacity that we feel comfortable with,” said Jack Ireland, the city’s chief financial officer. “So it’s not completely maxed out, but I would never run the fund to zero either.”

Ireland said the bond plan factors in the significant reduction in property taxes in City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s latest draft budget, which would reduce the levy by 2.75 percent.

According to Ireland, the city still doesn’t have set plans on how or when it will spend the $44 million in leftover bond money from 2012, nor the $77 million remaining from the 2006 bond issue..

— Maddy Sperling