DART to Plano: You'll Still Owe If You Drop Sales Tax

Plano considers leaving DART

Dallas Area Rapid Transit says that even if Plano votes to withdraw from the agency, the city will still owe debt payments for years to come.

Plano officials asked for information about leaving DART after some citizens complained about sales taxes for a service they don’t use.

DART is supported mostly by a penny sales tax in 13 member cities.

“We had citizen inquiries, and we try to be responsive to citizen inquiries,” Plano City Manager Tom Muehlenbeck said.

DART officials say Plano could not hold an election on leaving the transit agency until 2014. And even if the referendum passes, the city would still be obligated to pay a share of outstanding DART debts for the next 10 to 15 years.

“Those are simply the facts,” DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said. “They asked us what would happen under statute and what the rules were.”

Lyons said the transit agency’s long-range plans call for expanding the rail system serving Plano with connections to Fort Worth.

But sales taxes for the entire DART region have lagged, causing concern about any long-range expansion.

“We want to keep all of the cities in,” Lyons said. “We think we are a stronger system with all of those connections. There are a lot of cities that are currently not part of DART that want access to the system.”

Downtown Plano has thrived in the past several years since the arrival of DART rail. The area around the downtown rail station has seen new apartment and retail construction, and older businesses report an increase in customers.

“All the other cities around here are envious, because it does bring in more traffic,” said Susan Steblein, the owner of Nature’s Finest Art.

She said her 8-year-old shop has been doing well recently and is angry to hear talk about Plano dropping DART.

“They pull out? I pull out. I guarantee it,” Steblein said.

The Plano City Council will decide whether to move forward, but the city manager said he does not recommend leaving DART.

“The facts are awfully clear," Muehlenbeck said. "You’re not going to have any service, but your citizens are still going to be taxed for it. Is that a good deal? I don’t think so."

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