Commissioners OK bonds, tax notes

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More than $60 million to be used for projects could increase tax rate

Denton County commissioners approved issuing $50.6 million in bonds and another $10.5 million in tax notes, knowing the debt could raise the county’s tax rate as much as 0.8 cents per $100 valuation next year to pay it back.

The court delayed the vote one week at the request of Commissioner Andy Eads, who made no additional public comment during the commissioners’ regular meeting on Tuesday about the concerns he had for his precinct when the matter came up last week. The measure was approved unanimously.

Commissioner Hugh Coleman said he understood it was still possible that the tax increase to pay the bonds back wouldn’t be necessary, but that by issuing the bonds, there was a tacit agreement for the increase.

“I don’t think we ever have a problem … ,” Eads said, and Judge Mary Horn finished, “… paying our debt.”

Donna Stewart, budget director, said that the projects — such as the new jail and new juvenile probation facility — being built with the bonds and tax notes would require hiring more employees.

Capital projects the 2013 bonds will pay for include improvements to technology, facilities and roads. They include the Sandy Jacobs Government Center renovation project, juvenile case management system, county roads in Precinct 1 and other projects. The tax notes will pay for a video system for the jail expansion and other smaller projects.

The technology, facilities and roads projects are part of a voter-approved bond package from 2008 and total $50.6 million. The tax notes projects total $10.5 million.

The bonds would be paid back over a 20-year period and the notes over a seven-year period.

In a memo to the court, Stewart told commissioners that the county’s bond advisers say it is a good time to issue the debt, with the possibility of saving $100,000 in issuance costs.

In addition, the county could be able to refinance some older bonds and save another $9 million in interest costs.

Stewart told commissioners during the meeting that it was still possible to avoid tax increases in order to cover the additional $5.2 million anticipated in debt payments. In addition to the savings from refinancing, there should be new revenue from growth in property values.

Horn reminded the commissioners that the county wouldn’t know until July, when the first estimates for the property rolls are released, how much with which they have to work.

Commissioner Ron Marchant said he hoped that voters would remember that when they authorized the bonds, a tax increase was possible.

“The public votes with their eyes wide open,” Marchant said. “They know we could increase taxes to service the debt.”

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com .


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