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Bond committee presents $234 million project list to Travis County

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Michael Kanin

A group appointed to look at potential Travis County bond projects Tuesday brought forth 34 transportation and parks projects for inclusion in a potential November, 2011 county bond election.

 

All told, the projects recommended by the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee add up to $234 million. County officials have said that they expect that $150 million worth of bond projects would be completed.

 

“We are going to have more projects than $150 million,” said Steve Manilla, who is the county’s executive in charge of Transportation and Natural Resources. “We’ll probably have $200 million worth of projects and that $50 million will be substitute projects in the event that negotiations break down with a developer, then the funds will go to one of these substitute projects.”

 

If voters approve the bonds, county budget director Leroy Nellis says that they would mean an average increase of about $28 in property taxes. Travis County considers an average home to be worth $266,000 before its 20 percent homestead tax exemption. Nellis calculates that the preliminary numbers for the new debt would reflect a 1.2 percent tax increase.

 

Nellis told In Fact Daily that, in an estimate prepared for $100 million worth of bonds, the average property tax payer would see an increase of just under $20. However, he added that the actual number might be lower.

 

“That’s if you just stacked $100 million on top of whatever you’ve got now,” Nellis said. “Obviously we are paying down debt and so it will be mitigated to some extent by a reduction of what we’re paying off each year.”

 

The list originally handed to the committee included $575 million worth of projects. However, by the time the group began its work, that list had grown to include $638 million in candidates for the 2011 bonds.

 

The committee examined 26 road projects. At $111 million, they account for the majority of the proposed bond.

 

Of these, the county’s $13.76 million contribution to the widening and realigning of Cameron Road between Howard Lane and SH130 represented the biggest single transportation project. The list also included $12.4 million for widening Blake-Manor Road from a new four-lane project that will connect Parmer Lane and FM 973 called the Wildhorse Connector to the entrance of East Metro Park. Both of these efforts would include funds for bike lanes and sidewalks.

 

The Wildhorse Connector, an extension of William Cannon Drive to US 183, and the start of the long-debated, still unnamed Arterial A between US 290 and Cameron Road also made the cut. Though they were not included in the official tally for the 2011 bond, the pass through finance projects for FM 969 and FM 1626 were approved by the Texas Department of Transportation. This commits the county to almost $26 million in additional road improvement costs, should negotiations with the state agency conclude successfully.

 

The committee also suggested that the county seek to include funding for nine parks and land conservation projects. Here, the committee recommended $73.9 million in spending. This includes a $20 million set aside for parkland acquisition along the Pedernales River corridor. It represents the single largest expense currently under consideration for the potential bond.

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