Dallas officials hope to put $1 billion-plus bond on ballot in next election
Dallas city leaders putting together the city’s bond issuance for next year are fielding the first proposals from five City Council-appointed citizen subcommittees.
This is the city's first bond program since 2017, when voters approved a $1.05 billion package for a variety of projects such as library updates, Arts District renovations, and more. Those were planned to be completed in five years, but the pandemic delayed some of the projects, which are still pending.
Bonds are debt securities issued by municipalities to finance projects such as buildings, streets, or other infrastructure.
The 2024 bond proposal is estimated to be around $1.1 billion, and expected to be placed before voters in May.
The project, though, could also grow as the deadline to finalize the package nears, including an additional $400 million to cover rising pension costs.
The subcommittees last week submitted plans that would total around $1.7 billion, which includes $224 million for critical infrastructure, $675 for streets and infrastructure, $399 million for parks and trails, $275 million for economic development, housing, and addressing homelessness, and $200 million for flood control and storm damage.
Various city departments are also pitching their needs as part of the process. Those range from $8.8 million for renovations to the Preston Royal branch library and a $114 million animal shelter to $13 million for a new bridge along Malcolm X Boulevard over the DART service center in South Dallas.
Some departments insist their projects are paramount. "Our $399,000,835 request is not a wish list," assistant Parks and Recreation director Christina Turner- Noteware told the Dallas Morning News. "It's a true list of needs."
Some of the new plans are a continuation of the old ones. For example, the 2017 bond allocated $50.4 million for economic development to include improvements to commercial areas and neighborhood revitalization. The current plan includes $150 million for more affordable housing and more “mixed income” communities as well as more money to South Dallas projects.
“We’re still touching the same buckets as 2017," says former city council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who chairs the critical facilities subcommittee. Similar to 2017, "we have to take care of things that we haven’t taken care of, and the cost goes up."
In 2017, the ever-evolving needs for street improvements came to $533.98 million. (For a list of street projects, see here.) This time around, the proposed $675 million for streets addresses many of the same issues, including bridge repair, traffic signals, and other transit necessities.
Newer items include more money to address the homeless, with the proposed 2024 bond plan to include $29 million to assist that population. The city is already receiving $22 million in federal money to help with the problem. Dallas also funds an Office of Homeless Solutions at $219,000 a year.
The projects placed before voters will broken into separate propositions, similar to 2017.
The city has prepared a needs assessment, or a map of projects it considers on a scored basis of importance, for residents to see.