City Council weighs bond election, project funding options

By Public Communications Office

Copyright: siamimages / 123RF Stock PhotoAnyone who resides in or visits College Station on a regular basis knows the city continues to grow rapidly. They also know the city is challenged to keep pace with that growth, especially in regard to transportation infrastructure.

In May, a citizen advisory committee presented to the College Station City Council a priority list of transportation, facility and parks capital projects to consider for a possible bond election in November. At a special meeting Tuesday night, the council discussed various options for a possible bond election, including not having an election at all. In that case, the most pressing needs could be met by issuing certificates of obligation.

The council wants to avoid any increase in the property tax rate, but the city has the capacity to issue up to $65 million — that’s a revised number shared with the council Thursday — in general obligation bonds without raising taxes. The project priority list submitted by the citizen committee totaled more than $180 million.

If it decides to order a bond election, the council will have to make some difficult decisions based on needs versus wants.

To complicate matters further, the College Station Independent School District will also have a bond election in November that includes new schools. Some of the recommended transportation projects would provide vital infrastructure to support those schools.

Staff recommendations

City staff recommended that $39.4 million in transportation items appear on the November ballot. However, some additional transportation projects are so important that they may not be able to wait until November to get started. As a result, the city could issue $12 million in certificates of obligation to get specific projects underway later this summer.

The estimated cost of new police ($28 million) and fire ($5.5 million) stations would total $33.5 million. The city could address both needs through either certificates of obligation or a future bond election. Staff said a new police station, which was ranked No. 1 on the citizen committee’s priority list, requires extensive research to ensure the right facility is designed for College Station’s needs. Three million dollars in certificates of obligation are recommended for research and design.

A future Fire Station No. 7 is a need but could be deferred to a future bond election.

The committee also cited various parks improvements, sidewalks and traffic signals at a total one-time cost of about $5.1 million. City staff said many of those projects could be budgeted through the general fund over the next five years rather than paid with debt.

A $17.7 million community center ranked No. 8 on the committee’s priority list, but is not seen as an immediate need. It could be part of a future bond election and would likely require a property tax increase.

Another option the council discussed was issuing certificates of obligation for all the transportation projects and the design of a police station, while placing only the community center on the ballot.

The council must make a decision about whether to have a bond election, and what projects to include, by Aug. 24.

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