The Duncan Banner

May 9, 2013

Previous bond issues reflect flatline status

Mike Smith
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Duncan City Manager Jim Frieda doesn’t mince words when describing the public’s reaction to the last tax increase the city sought to fund major street improvements.

He has used phrases such as “failed miserably,” and “voted down pretty flatly, pretty overwhelmingly.”

He’s not exaggerating.

In 2007, under Mayor Gene Brown and then City Manager Clyde Shaw, the city put two propositions before voters.

The first was a $20 million bond issue, to be funded with property taxes, for reconstruction of some streets and water mains.

Of 1,206 people who cast ballots on that, 732 – or 61 percent – voted no.

Fifty-five percent also voted against an alternative to fund repair and reconstruction work through an additional half-cent increase in the city’s sales tax rate. That vote was closer, but in election terms, it wasn’t close.

The city then borrowed $10 million on its own for street work and dedicated a portion of existing sales tax revenue to pay for it. That loan is not scheduled to be paid back completely until 2017.

City leaders are now proposing a $9 million bond issue for street improvements to be funded through additional property taxes over 10 years. There is no talk about borrowing money anyway if the proposal fails on Tuesday.

Brown, now in his third term as mayor, said there were probably several reasons the proposals failed in 2007.

Having two proposals on the ballot in what was essentially an either-or scenario was probably confusing, Brown said.

“And one of the reasons is we didn’t do a good job of explaining things to the public,” he said. “We didn’t identify all the streets and I heard a lot of people say, ‘Why should I pay for improvements on other people’s streets?’ I take my part of the blame.”

The work to be done under the current proposal includes more streets throughout town and all have been listed with the types of repairs and projected costs.