Mayor's public improvement bond may compete with HISD bond on November ballot

July 11, 2012 4:53:15 PM PDT
Come November, Houston voters may be asked to vote on a $410 million bond program that has nothing to do with local schools. Mayor Annise Parker Wednesday presented a public improvement plan that she promises will not raise taxes.

But if HISD's $2 billion bond issue ends up on the same ballot, the sticker shock could hurt them both.

It is an ambitious project including a lot of improvements in parks and libraries.

At the Montrose Public Library, avid reader John Bradley says he's already made up his mind about this November's bond proposals.

"I'm in favor of it, something has to be done. I don't like it, but I'll do it," said Bradley.

The city of Houston is certainly hoping people like Bradley and others will vote in favor of a proposed $410 million bond package, which won't raise taxes, but if approved, will rebuild libraries like the one in Montrose, freshen up City Hall, and pay for a parks bayou network, among a long list of projects.

"These bonds will go to pay for, to improve and build libraries, police stations, fire stations, parks, and help Houston create jobs, and generally improve the quality of life for all Houstonians," said Billy Briscoe.

He is leading the campaign to convince voters to say yes to the city's bond proposal this fall. But getting the message across could be challenging because HISD's bond proposal could be competing for their attention.

The school district's bond price tag is much bigger -- almost $1.9 billion. Forty-two schools would be affected and there is a built-in, gradual tax increase. Mayor Parker said that worries her.

"What I hear from HISD is that they are proposing a tax increase. I don't think this is the time to propose a tax increase to the voters, and that's why I am very carefully keeping my bond package fiscally responsible," the mayor said.

But Mayor Parker says there will be an active campaign to make the city's bond package stand apart from others. So voters like Autumn Carol can decide how to vote.

"It's like what are we supporting when we support one thing and we're not supporting another and that means I have to do research," said Carol.

According to the mayor's office, the bond package also includes:

$144 million for public safety needs, including:

  • Improvements at neighborhood police stations citywide
  • Expansion of Fire Station 55, City Council District D
  • New fire station to serve Pine Brook area, City Council District E
  • Expansion of Fire Station 22, City Council District I
  • Fire station maintenance/improvements citywide
  • Facility security improvements
  • Other building repairs

$63 million for health, sanitation/recycling, and general government improvements at city facilities not included in the other categories:

  • Renovation of the Westpark recycling facility, City Council District J
  • Renovation of the Central Depository, City Council District I
  • Possible repair of Sunnywide Multi-Service Center, City Council District D
  • Repairs to City Hall and City Hall Annex
  • Environmental Remediation

$15 million for affordable housing. These dollars will be used for demolition of blighted properties to make way for new affordable housing.

$28 million for libraries, including:

  • Renovation of the Montrose Library, City Council District D
  • Replacement of the Moody Library, City Council District H
  • Replacement of the Meyer Library, City Council District K
  • Renovation of Robinson-Westchase Library, City Council District F

$160 million for parks, including the Bayou Greenways Project and:

  • Improvements at Haden, Busby Park, Judson Robinson Sr., Jaycee, Wright, Bembry, Hermann, Alief, Nieto, Squatty Lyons, Gragg, Braeburn, Glen and Wildheather parks
  • Pavilion replacements
  • Swimming pool upgrades and replacements
  • Ball field lighting upgrades
  • Trail replacement and overlays
  • Bayou Greenways Project

The city says $100 million is included in city matching funds for the Bayou Greenways Project.


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