Dallas bond planning has been in good hands

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results about Dallas bond planning has been in good hands

Dallas’ Community Bond Task Force, charged with considering how to structure the next bond program, has done strong work on ensuring that the city gets value for its dollar.

This work is incredibly important for the city’s future. There are plenty of ideas about how to spend a proposed $1.1 billion in bond funds, and it takes careful planning to get it right.

Mayor Eric Johnson was wise to bring together a coalition of community leaders with experience in both city government and business to chair the task force and its subcommittees and consider how best to divvy up the available funds.

Led by Park and Recreation board president Arun Agarwal, the task force sent its main proposal to its subcommittees last week to further refine projects in preparation for a presentation to the full City Council in December.

There are already signals of why this work is so important.

First, the task force asked tough questions of staff about proposed projects, including the lifespan of roadwork. The city should be using capital funds for transportation work with at least a 20-year timeline. But there’s a bad habit of slipping what should be shorter-term maintenance work handled under the annual budget into capital expenditures. That’s not the right way to use bond funds.

There has also been a lot of energy and politicking around a push for $200 million to spend on affordable housing. No one questions that Dallas needs more affordable housing.

But based on what we have seen, and what the task force saw, there was not a solid plan for how this money would be used, or how it would be accounted for.

The city’s Housing Department has a checkered history of delivering affordable housing. Creating a massive capital stream without a solid plan is a recipe for trouble. The task force wisely combined proposed spending in this area with economic development bond funding and recommended just $100 million for both areas.

The task force looks like it did focus on what taxpayers want most, recommending $375 million for streets and $75 million for flood control.

They came back with a huge spending plan for parks at $350 million. That’s $50 million less than what Johnson has been asking for, but still a large amount. More detail is needed on what the city would get for the money.

None of this is a done deal. The city manager will still have his say on how he wants bond funds spent. And the final say on what’s on the ballot, and even when the ballot is put to voters, will come from the City Council.

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