AUSTIN (KXAN) - The question for Austin voters considering Proposition 16 on the Nov. 6 ballot is straight-forward: Should the city taken on $31 million in debt to upgrade aging facilities for first responders.
Proposition 16 calls for $31 million in bonds that will be repaid by Austin taxpayers. Some of that money would build a new fire station in Southeast Austin.
Money will also go to repair and improve existing stations for police, fire and EMS. But the bond would be paid for by an increase in property taxes - not right away, but in years to come.
At Austin Fire Station 24, metal plates cover potholes in the driveway, and female firefighters have a dressing room the size of a small closet.
But Proposition 16 on the Nov. 6 ballot would allocate money to help improve those conditions.
Some of Austin's fire stations are over 70 years old and were built back when only men were firefighters.
"We didn't have our first women fire fighter until the '70s," said Matt Orta, an fire assistant chief. "Now we are trying to play catch up."
First responders say repaved driveways at seven different departments would help response times when every second matters.
"It does have an impact on our ability to get out and back into the station," said Orta.
The bond would also go towards building a new fire station in Onion Creek, a Southeast Austin neighborhood that is rapidly growing.
If passed police would also be effected by adding a new department in Northwest Austin, and a mounted patrol facility in Elroy would be built to help house horses.
In addition, proposition 16 would pay for police who patrol the parks and the city's park rangers to share a new facility.
The bonds would be repaid with property taxes. The city says while they don't plan to increase the property tax rate - Austin homeowners would still pay about $49 more in city taxes by 2018, if home values continue to rise.
About $4-dollars of that increase would help pay for Proposition 16.
For Mary Lou Church, an East Austin resident who lives on fixed income it's a big decision to make.
"Not that I'm against safety I want us to be protected too, but i am concerned where the money is coming from," said Church.
For more information on Proposition 16, click here .
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