Bloomberg News

Voters Pass $7 Billion in Munis While Forsaking Astrodome (1)

November 06, 2013

U.S. voters passed at least $7 billion of municipal debt while rejecting a new issue to save the Houston Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium, from possible demolition.

New bonds authorized in yesterday’s referendums paved the way for construction of schools, roads and other infrastructure, including $842 million in Columbus, Ohio, for public-safety facilities, utilities and parks, and $830 million in Miami-Dade County, Florida, for hospital improvements.

About $19 billion of proposed debt was on the ballot, the most since 2007, when $28.6 billion was put to a vote, before tax revenue eroded in the longest recession since the 1930s, according to New York-based Ipreo, a financial-market data provider.

“There’s still an aura of conservatism when it comes to new bonds,” Natalie Cohen, head of municipal research at Wells Fargo (WFC:US) Securities LLC. in New York, said before polls closed. “Issuers are reluctant to bring more debt.”

Voters in Harris County, Texas, where Houston, the fourth most-populous U.S. city, is located, rejected borrowing $217 million to renovate the Astrodome. The stadium, which opened in 1965, drew its name from the city’s central role in the U.S. space program.

‘Eighth Wonder’

The Astrodome, once called the “eighth wonder of the world,” was the first fully air-conditioned, enclosed, multipurpose stadium, according to the Texas State Historical Association. It has been used for major-league baseball, college and professional football, rodeos, concerts and religious meetings.

In recent years it has been used as a convention facility but county officials have said they may consider tearing it down without funds to renovate it.

Voters in West Jordan, Utah, rejected $495 million in borrowing for the Jordan School District to keep up with growth. Voters in the New Braunfels, Texas-based Comal Independent School District, which covers parts of five central Texas counties, turned down a $451 million bond issue.

Following are the largest bond issues voters faced, according to Ipreo and reports from local press or unofficial tallies from districts:

Aviation Station and Smith Metropolitan
Districts, Colorado, combined             $1 billion
Columbus, Ohio                            $842 million  Pass
Miami-Dade County                         $830 million  Pass
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina        $500 million  Pass
Jordan School District, Utah              $495 million  Fail
Fort Worth Independent School District,
Texas                                     $489.9 million Pass
Comal Independent School District, Texas  $451 million   Fail
United Independent School District, Texas $408.7 million Pass
Marin Healthcare District, California     $394 million   Pass
Chesterfield County, Virginia,            $353 million   Pass

To contact the reporters on this story: Darrell Preston in Dallas at dpreston@bloomberg.net; Priya Anand in New York at panand20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net


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