Austin voters could be asked to approve another couple-hundred-million dollars in bond money next year. Curated from a list of more than $3 billion in needs compiled by city staff, the bond could pay for anything from flooding prevention to affordable housing.
Of course, everyone has a pitch.
“I think we’ve heard from the community that housing is in desperate crisis at this time,” said Rachel Stone, a member of the city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force. City Council members voted last year to create the task force to look into a bond. The task force is trying to send a bond proposal to Council by the end of January.
Currently, city staff is recommending $640 million: $150 million for parks, $120 million for updating local facilities (such as replacing fire stations), $85 million for affordable housing, $190 for road infrastructure and $95 million for alleviating flooding.
If a bond is approved, the city would have to raise the tax rate to pay for it. That could result in a rise in property taxes. Someone who owns a median-valued home in Austin, roughly $305,000, could see anywhere from a $30 to $60 increase in property taxes, depending on how large a bond package Council votes to put on the ballot.
In 2016, voters approved $720 million to pay for new sidewalks, new bike lanes and a redesigning of some of Austin’s major roads, such as Guadalupe Street and South Lamar Boulevard. The bond garnered 59 percent of the vote.
Some task force members want to make sure the public understands exactly how future bond money could be spent. While City Council members had a sense of where the $720 million approved last year would be spent, it wasn’t entirely clear exactly what it would buy.
“It’s hard for me to support just saying $20 million for, you know, 38 linear miles of sidewalk,” said Yasmiyn Irizarry, another task force member. “Unless I know where those are, it’s hard for me to provide support behind that.”
The city is hosting public input meetings on the 2018 bond through mid-December.