The City of Spokane is asking voters to consider a refinancing proposal to maintain and rebuild streets and reinvigorate Riverfront Park. The proposal provides for significant new work for the community at the same rate that citizens pay today for streets and parks. The Spokane City Council voted on Monday, July 28, on resolutions to place the street levy (PDF 52 KB) and a bond for Riverfront Park (PDF 61 KB) on the ballot in November.
Currently, Spokane's citizens pay 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value toward the repayment of three street and park bonds. With strategic refinancing, the dollars generated could be used to provide:
Mayor David Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart, and other City officials talked about the proposal (PDF 4.8 MB) at a recent meeting.
Maintaining our streets requires an ongoing investment. Through the generosity of our citizens, the 2004 Street Bond greatly improved the overall quality of our street system and upgraded about one-third of arterial streets.
The City wants to build on this success with this proposed refinancing plan. The proposal would concentrate new investments on the arterial streets, which account for more than 90 percent of vehicle miles traveled through the City. Arterials provide the greatest opportunity for matching dollars, and they serve as the primary location of other infrastructure that may need to be improved.
The idea is to upgrade all 266 miles of arterials to a good condition and maintain them there throughout the 20 years. Work would include everything from major reconstruction to sealing cracks. Other dollars, including those generated through the vehicle license tab fee, would be dedicated to repairs on residential and other non-arterial streets.
This proposal would support the City's new "integrated" way of looking at streets. Think of streets as a three-dimensional connection for all kinds of infrastructure and transportation options.
Integrated streets consider pavement conditions, multi-modal transportation components, stormwater management, water and wastewater infrastructure, and economic development opportunities.
The City is melding these concepts in its update to the Comprehensive Plan section on transportation and utility infrastructure, called Link Spokane, which will define our infrastructure investment strategy for the next 20 years.
A levy creates a sustainable, long-term funding source for streets. This pay-as-you-go model makes sense for something that is a perpetual need.
Spokane citizens currently pay 57 per $1,000 of assessed property value for repayment of the 2004 Street Bond. Bond payments are scheduled to continue for another 16 years without any additional street improvements.
For that same cost, the City proposes a levy that would generate about $5 million a year to fund new street work. Those funds would be matched with local utility dollars and state and federal matching funds to support about $25 million in street improvements annually. The levy would end after 20 years, and no debt would remain. More than 50 percent of voters would need to approve the measure.
To ensure accountability back to the citizens, the City Council passed a resolution in July to establish a Transportation Subcommittee of the Plan Commission to help oversee the street levy funding and project selection. The resolution calls for diverse membership with geographic distribution and varied interests.
Over the last year, the Riverfront Park Master Plan Advisory Committee, made up of local citizens, developed a plan to reinvigorate Riverfront Park. This year, our community is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Expo 74 this year, which also marks the birth of Riverfront Park, and the park is in need of an update.
On June 20, the Park Board voted to support the 2014 Riverfront Park Master Plan and a $60 million bond to implement many components within the plan. The vote follows the final recommendation of the Master Plan Advisory Committee. In April, the Advisory Committee presented its final report. The committee recommends a series of capital investments and programmatic changes to renew the park.
Among other things, the master plan proposes:
This funding proposal would generate $60 million to invest in the renewal of our City's urban centerpiece. Currently, citizens pay 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for repayment of two park bonds. For that same cost, the City proposes creating a new bond that would provide dollars to implement the Riverfront Park Master Plan and pay off the remaining debt from earlier bonds.
A bond is a good financing tool in this case because the projects would be completed over a relatively short period of time. More than 60 percent of voters would need to approve the measure.
Utilities Communications Manager