Travis County voters will decide in November whether to approve $185 million in bonds. Much of that money will pay for projects meant to fix longstanding problems in the eastern part of the county.
The projects are prioritized in what Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion calls a “health and safety” bond.
“The first principle was safe routes to schools," he said. "Second principle was evacuation routes from areas which were in flood plains."
Years of neglect on county roads outside of municipal or state jurisdictions are becoming bigger problems.
“When it floods and that road gets flooded out, then if [students] are in school when it starts raining, then they have to stay in school, spend the night at school, because the buses can’t get them back home,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez. “If they’re at home, the buses can’t get in to get them out to take to school.”
Gomez, who represents the Southeast portion of the county, was referring to issues Del Valle ISD children have had getting to and from school when heavy rains come.
While homes may not be in a flood plain, many of the county’s eastern roads and nearby creeks have problems with drainage. Those problems are only exacerbated by the county’s topography.
“It’s like the funnel. The higher points are in the western part of Travis County, and the lower parts are in the eastern,” Gomez said.
The same could be said about housing prices in the county. Economics have created a funnel of people seeking lower-priced housing — and they’re buying up more and more developments. Some of these new neighborhoods in the eastern part of the county fall outside Austin, Pflugerville and Manor city services.
“There’s a great out-migration" of lower-income and minority populations from Austin, Travillion said, "because the housing prices are so high and, certainly, tax rates [are high] because of that."
“This bond package is really kind of a start to address those two things – both the growth and the underinvestment. So, we’re really playing a bit of catchup with the proposed projects on this bond,” said John Langmore, a member of the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee. The group helped the county prioritize the projects.
Other parts of the county will see a benefit, too, like park and road improvements out West and North. But the lion’s share of the bond will go Northeast and Southeast.
As for how much this would cost Travis County taxpayers if it the bond is approved?
“The best way, I think, to talk about what it costs taxpayers is that for every $100 million of long-term debt, it’s about $13 on the average taxable homestead,” Langmore said.
What that means for you is less clear; the county won’t issue all the debt at once and the cost will vary depending on your home’s value. But given that formula, the owner of an average-priced home would see an annual property tax bill increase of about $23 after all the debt is issued in about four years.
Travis County voters will decide on the bond Nov. 7.