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Reporter’s Notebook: We’re back, and so is this

Monday, January 7, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Taking her talents… Ellen Troxclair, whose term on Austin City Council concludes with today’s swearing-in ceremony that’ll install Paige Ellis as the new representative for District 8, is taking her focus on property tax issues to the state level. News broke Friday that Troxclair has joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation as a senior fellow. With the Texas Legislature set to convene on Tuesday, Troxclair will be heavily involved in the think tank’s work to reform property tax policy throughout the state. Gov. Greg Abbott and other lawmakers have floated a variety of ideas to remedy fast-rising property tax rates in Austin and other metro areas around the state, including placing caps on the annual percentage increase. In a Twitter post announcing her new role, Troxclair wrote: “While my service on #ATXCouncil is ending, the fight on behalf of families who are being forced out of their homes and businesses due to rising property taxes is not over.”

It’s not over till … something?… Friends of McKalla Place, a community group formed in opposition to the city’s agreement to lease city property for a new soccer stadium in North Austin, has filed petitions seeking a public vote on the move. The group announced Thursday that it has turned in 29,000 signatures to the city clerk’s office, seeking a May election question that would attempt to block or invalidate the ordinance approved by City Council in August that allowed the city to negotiate with Precourt Sports Ventures on the stadium deal. Friends of McKalla Place has characterized the lease agreement as a handout to PSV, which will pay over $8 million in rent to the city over a 20-year term but will not pay property taxes to local taxing jurisdictions because the city will take ownership of the 20,000-seat stadium expected to open in 2021. The petition language in some ways resembles a November ballot proposal that was defeated by voters. On Friday, a city spokesperson told local news organizations that the city charter prevents similar ballot measures within six months of each other, meaning that the McKalla Place measure may be delayed until November, or after PSV is expected to have broken ground on the stadium construction.

Recycled lots o’ stuff… According to a Dec. 21 memo from library director Roosevelt Weeks, Recycled Reads may soon be taking on another tenant. The Austin Public Library bookstore, according to Weeks, is looking to collaborate with Austin Creative Reuse, a nonprofit that operates a distribution center for donated, reusable materials. According to the memo, “APL is looking to sublease 2/3 of the current space at Burnet Road’s Recycled Reads to ACR. This will offset some of the rent we pay to operate at this location. The current rent that we pay is $10,092 per month. Subleasing this space will allow Recycled Reads to continue to operate throughout the city and to expand book sales and reuse programs through our library branches as well as outreach events in the city. This means that every district will have exposure to the Recycled Reads experience.” The plan would reduce operating costs for the library, explained Weeks, and allow Recycled Reads to operate in more parts of the city. As of now, the goal is to bring the plan to City Council in the next few months.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki and Elizabeth Pagano.

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