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City withdraws bond meant to improve S.F. infrastructure

June 5, 2018 GMT

After the rapid flameout of a $60 million general obligation bond election idea, the city also has withdrawn a separate $13 million bond proposal.

Both originated within the city Finance Department as a means of addressing the city’s maintenance backlog, staff members said.

Both were introduced last month by Mayor Alan Webber. Both were short-lived.

The latter bond idea, a gross receipts tax improvement revenue bond that envisioned up to $13 million for infrastructure improvements at city facilities, was yanked from the agenda at the start of the city Finance Committee meeting Monday.

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The withdrawal follows Webber’s announcement last week that the bond election proposal, which would have needed to be assembled by mid-June to ensure a spot on the November general election ballot, would be called off.

On Monday, Webber said the field had been “cleared from the pressure of a calendar-driven decision” and city officials could begin building a comprehensive approach to bond projects.

Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, chairman of the Finance Committee, said Webber told him he wanted to “develop a process for moving forward, especially as it relates to prioritizing projects,” in explaining the withdrawal of the $13 million bond item.

Webber said he wanted to “hit the brakes” and “develop a process and a different set of lenses to decide what we want to include” in a gross receipts tax revenue bond.

Saying he wanted to meet with councilors individually to hash out how to move forward, Webber said his idea was to “really get into a rhythm, a regularly repeating approach, to using our bonding capacity to take care of our capital needs.”

Councilors have said they want to establish a scope of projects and costs before taking up bond issues.

The proposed $13 million bond issue — unlike the election idea — would not require voter approval and raise the specter of a property tax increase.

Abeyta asked city finance staff to provide councilors with an overview of bond options the city could undertake at its next meeting.

The city earlier this year began roadwork improvements that were funded by an $11.5 million bond issue, to be paid off by the city’s share of gasoline tax revenue from the state.

Brad Fluetsch of the city Finance Department said last week that bond issue, and the city’s handling of it, could serve to raise the public’s confidence in the city’s ability to manage a bond and deliver on the work it had promised.

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