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Ballot set for Hays County road bond election

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

After more than a year’s worth of planning, debate, community meetings and consultant workshops, the Hays County Commissioners Court Tuesday unanimously approved a $207 million road bond to be included on the November 4 ballot. The funds will cover the “pass through” roads, which are part of a Texas Department of Transportation reimbursement deal, as well as 12 other roads to improve safety and mobility and stimulate the voters.


The added roads were a departure from last year’s $172 million road bond, which voters rejected in May 2007.


Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton said, “Last time it was a combination of both disagreement over RR 12 and confusion over what we were proposing combined with a small turnout election and this time we have a broad general election… and we have improved the proposition by including more roads across the county.”


Because of the past failure to pass a road bond, commissioners were sensitive to the wording of the bond, editing it very carefully. The final version included the sum of $207,110,000 and language stating “the county expects to be reimbursed for a maximum amount of $133,170,000 over time,” an allusion to the TxDOT agreement which pays back the county’s capital construction costs based upon the number of cars that utilize the roads.


The pass through roads include segments of IH 35, FM 1626, FM 110, and US 290. The pass through roads amount to $148,225,000 of the bond and would have a reduced tax impact. Additional “priority roads” included on the ballot were “sections of Old Bastrop Highway, SH 21, Dacy Lane, Post Road, FM 967, Lakewood Drive, FM 150, RR 12, FM 3225, Lime Kiln Road, RM 1826” and other parts of US 290 not included in the pass through agreement.


Due to the complicated financial structuring of the payments and interest between the state, county and banks the estimated tax impact is less for the pass through roads than it is for the priority roads. The result is that the pass through roads would tack on an estimated $1.67 in monthly taxes for a $200,000 home, The priority road projects would amount to $58,885,000 and account for an increase of an estimated $5.25 per month for a $200,000 home. The entire sum is estimated to add an additional $6.92 onto a $200,000 home’s property taxes each month.


Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford was surprised to see the price tag for the roads so high. “I don’t pretend to know how that impacts others in the county. I don’t know what that does to those who are struggling to pay those bills,” she told the court. However, the $207 million is a more conservative number the court decided upon with the expectation that it could decrease if the cities of San Marcos and Kyle are able to contribute more to improvements within their municipalities. Commissioner Barton said he believes the likelihood of the two cities contributing more funds is higher than 90 percent. The current configuration of costs includes $7.6 million from San Marcos and $11 million from Kyle.


Although there is no legally binding agreement as such, Barton indicated the county could expect up to $7 million more from the two municipalities, which could potentially take off another 25 cents a month for a $100,000 home or cover unexpected cost increases in construction.


Additionally, Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley pointed out that the county’s growth projections have been drastically lowered in line with the souring economy.


Barton said that the long road to the ballot had lead to a package everyone believes in, “I feel good about what’s in the package, I feel good about the community process that’s gone on… I am convinced from public meetings, from polling, from everything I see and hear that a great majority of citizens in Hays County wants to improve safety and mobility and this election is going to be our best chance to let that broad public speak.”

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