We understand why Denton City Council members weren’t overly enthusiastic about a recommendation from city staff that the council consider another bond election in May — this one to fund renovation of the city’s oldest fire stations.
Neither are we.
Council members seemed to think that the proposal comes a little too soon after November’s $20.4 million street bond program. We agree on this point as well.
We don’t question the intent of the plan — members of the fire department conducted a field trip to four of the city’s seven fire stations to show the contrast between the facilities. The newest station — Station 7, opened in 2007, and the three oldest stations — Station 4, Station 3 and Station 2 are 46, 42 and 34 years old, respectively.
City Manager George Campbell told the council that the rehabilitation of the three older stations is overdue, in part because of the poor quality of the living quarters. Male and female firefighters and paramedics share sleeping quarters and restroom facilities.
In addition, new trucks are taller and wider and have outgrown the older fire stations.
But another statement from Campbell gave us pause. He said it would cost between $13 million and $15 million to make the needed renovations. There’s enough property in the current locations so that all three stations would likely be rebuilt on the same sites, but financing the improvements could raise the city’s property tax rate about 1.8 cents, putting the city’s property tax at nearly 72 cents per $100 valuation.
That means that taxes for the average Denton homeowner would be boosted about $29 a year to pay for the fire station upgrades, according to Bryan Langley, Denton’s assistant city manager and chief financial officer.
Since voters just approved the $20.4 million street bond measure and will likely be asked to consider another $55 million bond package in November 2014, most council members balked at the idea of still another election, citing several concerns.
We agree with council member James King, who said he didn’t think voters would react well to a $15 million bond package that raises taxes this year and a $55 million package next year that doesn’t.
Taxpayers’ money is tight with changes in health insurance, Social Security and federal income tax increases and dealing with an economy that still hasn’t completely recovered.
We can’t help but wonder what’s next on the city’s wish list.
Here we are, just a couple of months past the street bond vote, and already we’re talking about pitching another bond project.
Council member Chris Watts proposed the city move up the $55 million in propositions planned for 2014 and combine them with the $15 million for fire stations — then hold the election in November instead of May.
However, we strongly suggest going back to the drawing board to find other ways of solving the problem — a problem that should have been dealt with during the past few decades.
Where were the plans to upgrade the fire stations along the way?
Now would be a good time to draw up such a plan, outlining upgrades for the next few years as funds allow for all fire stations and other city-owned facilities.
A poorly conceived string of bond elections is, quite simply, no way to ensure public trust.