Travis County staffers on Tuesday recommended a $28 million increase to the proposed roads and parks bond package, bringing the new total to $185 million, just one week ahead of the final Commissioners Court vote to place the item on the November ballot.
The latest revisions come after the staff announced last week that new estimates caused the citizen bond advisory committee’s final recommended package total to rise by about $12 million.
The largest bump came from the staff’s recommendation to add $26.9 million for improvements to low water crossings. All but a couple of the crossings were identified in a 2009 drainage basin study as needing improvement; the others have been known to cause road closures.
The staff also recommended $8.3 million in improvements to Northeast Metropolitan Park in Pflugerville, which was ranked eighth-highest priority by staff but wasn’t included in the bond committee’s list.
The staff proposed about $7 million in reductions, including removing the Braker Lane North roadway capacity project as well as the Austin to Manor Trail bicycle safety project, both of which it can both be covered by other means.
The revisions the staff recommended Tuesday would add about $5 to the average taxable homestead’s bill, if voters approve the package. The original bond proposal wouldn’t have raised the tax rate, though as properties increase in value, owners could pay a larger tax bill.
During public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, most of the speakers weighed in against adding Reimers-Peacock Road to the project list.
Construction of a new two-lane road with shoulders on Reimers-Peacock Road from Texas 71 to Hamilton Pool Road isn’t in the proposed bond package, and some residents want to keep it that way, fearing the project would bring more development. But Commissioner Gerald Daugherty has expressed interest in adding it.
Jim Koerner, representing Hamilton Pool Road Matters, questioned why the project was still on the table, despite being ranked lowest priority by the bond committee.
“Why does the court continue to waste its time discussing and debating this matter?” Koerner said. “It’s time to listen to and act on the community’s input.”
Members of the bond committee told commissioners that they felt other projects were more pressing, and they worried adding a controversial project to the list could lead to failure of the bond proposition at the polls.
Daugherty, in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, steadfast in his mission to add the project. He reiterated that the Lake Travis school district and Emergency Services Districts 6 and 8 support the project, and he criticized opponents for taking a “not in my backyard” approach.
“The truth of the matter is I won’t give up on it because I think it really needs to be done,” Daugherty said.
The citizens bond advisory committee will meet for the last time at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Commissioners Court to discuss the changes recommended by staffers. The Commissioners Court will take its final vote Aug. 8 to place the proposal on the November ballot.