City of Nacogdoches to reassess projects after voter petition blocks certificate of obligations

City of Nacogdoches to reassess projects after voter petition blocks certificate of obligations
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:43 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Voters in Nacogdoches have spoken. 1,111 verified signatures surpassed the 716 signature requirement needed to stop the Nacogdoches City Council from taking on more than $21 million worth of debt.

The petition was started in July by resident Philip Blackburn when he learned of the amount of money the city the planned to take on with a certificate of obligation, or CO for short.

“We never got into the weeds about the items on there, it’s kind of a moot point,” Blackburn said. “The point of the petition is we want to have a voice in this. We should vote on this because of the amount.”

COs are a way to fast track funding for projects, but the dilemma is it bypasses vote approval and the vote lies solely on city council.

The city had $41 million laid out for projects, but with $21 million of those funds coming from the COs, they now have to cut those plans in half according to Nacogdoches City Manager Mario Canizares.

“Since that’s not going to come to pass we have to go back and look at those remaining dollars that have been budgeted and see what things need to be reprioritized,” Canizares said.

One of the biggest projects on the list was consolidating two fire stations downtown that were built in the 1950s with now-outdated infrastructure and less than ideal living conditions, according to some firefighters. Now the city will have to focus on making small repairs on the buildings and wait to put the a general obligation fund for the project on a future ballot. There’s just one catch.

“The earliest we would be able to do a bond program would be in November of 2023,” Canizares said.

Canizares says that’s because with the deadline passed to get it on this Novembers ballot and with May elections looming the city could see a shakeup with a new mayor and council members.

“That’s even more reason that we should be voting on things from the beginning,” Blackburn said. “Because people on the city council come and go. Yet the tax payer will be stuck with paying this payment of this debt for another 20 or 25 years.”