Austin’s 2018 bond package could be as high as $825 million according to preliminary estimates

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With a 2-cent tax rate increase, the 2018 bond package could reach $825 million, according to preliminary estimates put out by the city’s Bond Advisory Task Force earlier this week.

Of course, whether a nearly $1 billion bond package is worth a 2-cent tax rate increase will be up to taxpayers when the bond package goes up for a vote in 2018. Last year, taxpayers approved a 2.25-cent tax rate increase for the $720 million mobility bond.

After last year’s bond focused primarily on mobility issues, City Council directed 2018’s bond to fund projects that not only address issues like flooding, affordable housing, high-capacity transit, parks, libraries and existing infrastructure, but that can be completed within a five-year period as well.

City staff came back with $3 billion in needs over the next five years for the directed areas but recommended a $640 million starting point for the 2018 bond.

An $825 million bond package is not the only option, however. Other preliminary estimates show a 1-cent tax rate increase would earn the city an opportunity to ask the voters for $575 million while the city could fund a $325 million bond with no tax rate increase.

The tax rate increase is measured in cents per $100 of assessed valuation. So a 1-cent tax rate increase for an Austin taxpayer with a median-valued home, $305,510, would mean an annual increase of $30.55, and a 2-cent increase would mean a roughly $61.10 annual increase. That tax rate increase would sustain through the life of the bond, which is typically 30 years, according to Katy Zamesnik, a spokesperson for the city’s financial services office.

Last year, City Council appointed the 13-member Bond Election Advisory Task Force to study the potential for the bond package and bring an official recommendation on its size and scope.

The task force divided into working groups to tackle recommendations for various need categories. According to Zamesnik, the task force is preparing to make a final recommendation to City Council by January. A January recommendation, Zamesnik said, would likely mean a bond vote would occur in November 2018 although she did not rule out a May vote.

On Thursday, the working group presented preliminary size and scope recommendations for each of the council-directed areas and came up with a roughly $605 million bond package. However, the recommendations are far from final.

The task force needs public input before they make their final recommendation to council. They will host six more town hall-style meetings between Nov. 28 and Dec. 7 where the public is encouraged to talk about their spending priorities.

Meetings schedule (all meetings run from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

• Tuesday, Nov. 28 at University Hills Branch Library, 4721 Loyola Lane
• Wednesday, Nov. 29 at ACC South Campus, 1820 W. Stassney Lane
• Thursday, Nov. 30 at Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.
• Monday, Dec, 4 at Spicewood Springs Library, 8637 Spicewood Springs Road
• Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive
• Thursday, Dec. 7 at Hampton Branch Library at Oak Hill, 5125 Convict Hill Road

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Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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