Dallas Shouldn't Borrow Money for Road Maintenance

On Nov. 7, Dallas voters will be asked to decide a simple question: "Should the citizens of Dallas borrow $1,005,000,000?" Yes, a billion dollars. This is a rare opportunity for you to express your desire in the form of a direct referendum.Most decisions at the city are made via representative democracy. Direct democracy is reserved for the most broad-reaching issues: who represents you, changes to the city charter and city borrowing. Bonds must be repaid out of taxes, and the citizens are asked to pledge future taxes to pay principal and interest.In the case of Dallas, we currently pay almost $250 million annually to service debt. Of that, $100 million is in interest alone. Is paying interest the best use of the precious tax dollars you have entrusted us to manage? In many cases, I don't think so.I frequently hear: "City Hall should be run like a business." How many businesses are in debt almost three times their annual income? How many businesses defer maintenance until an asset is worthless, then borrow money for replacement and pay the debt for a longer term than the useful life? Welcome to the city of Dallas, where we could significantly extend the life of our streets, buildings, sewers and infrastructure if we would impose regular maintenance. But the attitude is why bother with maintenance when the citizens will simply buy us new? This has got to stop.There are good reasons to borrow. As in business, the city of Dallas should borrow if the return is greater than the cost. This applies to new infrastructure. New road, sewer and water facilities enable development and increase the tax base. Or when a new library or park increases the quality of life for a neighborhood and property values go up.But we should not borrow to fund consumables such as street repair and building maintenance. These items should be paid for along the way. I have advocated for a pay-as-you-go program since I was elected. I developed a 20-year debt reduction program that shifts this borrowing to the general fund. The City Council discussed limiting the 2017 bond program to $600 million and gave a directive to staff to cap the program at $800 million in order to shift to a pay-as-you go system.But the temptation was too great. Like a credit card company dangling a new card in front of an already over-extended consumer, the council could not resist the $1 billion capacity. This election asks the taxpayers to take an additional obligation of more than $4,000 for every family in the city of Dallas.  Continue reading...

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