Hickory Creek Road

A new guardrail went up recently along Hickory Creek Road between Country Club Road and Biddy Bye Lane where the road sits above Hickory Creek. Denton will likely put the widening of Hickory Creek Road and other major thoroughfares on the ballot for a bond election in November.

Denton voters may have a local reason to head to the polls in November now that city leaders are considering a $190 million bond election this fall.

The City Council’s discussion over lunch Monday was just that, City Manager Todd Hileman said.

“There’s no attempt to do anything other than introduce this to you today,” Hileman said.

The city staff presented a roster of a dozen projects that could go before voters, all of which they considered top priority and time-sensitive. For example, where the city is growing fast, the staff proposed building and outfitting Fire Station No. 8 in southern Denton and adding a police substation in western Denton. In addition, several thoroughfares in northeastern, southern and western Denton need to be widened to four lanes or more.

Hileman told council members they could expect better estimates of project costs as talks progress, with some estimates coming from actual construction designs.

Some council members questioned the size of the bond package, which might trigger as much as a 4-cent increase in the city’s property tax rate. Denton’s property tax rate has dropped from its 2015 high of 68.975 cents per $100 valuation to its current level, 62.048 cents per $100.

Hileman told council members the budget remains lean from year to year. That doesn’t mean basic services are threatened, but new services or big changes must be discussed, he added.

Tony Puente, Denton’s chief financial officer, told council members this bond package would be more compressed than the packages in 2005, 2012 and 2014. If voters approve the package in November, the bonds would likely be issued between 2020 and 2024. Tax increases to repay those bonds could begin in 2021 and follow for the next three years, depending on the city’s growth.

That could ultimately mean an additional $80 per year in city property taxes for a home valued at $200,000.

Council member Paul Meltzer said he’s uncomfortable, too, with the city’s total indebtedness.

“When you take on debt, you have to pay it, and it reduces your flexibility,” Meltzer said.

The city staff said they see the package as manageable. The city currently pays $25 million in general debt service each year, Puente said. The bond program would increase that to about $30 million per year. The city expects to retire about $1.1 million of bond indebtedness each year, he added.

Mayor Chris Watts reminded fellow council members there are more steps to take before the council can officially call the election in early August.

A citizen committee must review the project list, and the council must decide whether to appoint a completely new committee or augment the city’s current bond oversight committee, which has five long-standing members.

Hileman said he was seeking the council’s feedback before they return to a full work session on the topic on April 16. In addition to deciding the composition and charge of a citizen bond committee that day, the council will also likely decide whether funding any public art would also be part of the package.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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