Travis County voters approve Expo Center proposition

A sign welcomes voters into the Ben Hur Shrine Temple on Rockwood Lane in North Central Austin on Nov. 5. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
A sign welcomes voters into the Ben Hur Shrine Temple on Rockwood Lane in North Central Austin on Nov. 5. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper

A sign welcomes voters into the Ben Hur Shrine Temple on Rockwood Lane in North Central Austin on Nov. 5. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the most recent tallies.

Travis County will be allowed to collect hotel tax revenue to fund the expansion of the Travis County Exposition Center—and invest significant funding into its growing northeast quadrant—after the Nov. 5 election.

After 72,125 votes were tallied on Election Day and posted on the Travis County Clerk website, 62.38% of voters approved the proposition. Including early voting tallies, 74,770 voters supported it, with 45,089 voting against.

"While this investment is long overdue, I am optimistic about what a revitalized and energized Travis County Exposition Center can bring to East Travis County," Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion said in a statement Nov. 5.

Travis County wants, and is legally allowed, to finance the expo center project with a 2% venue project tax on hotel bills paid by guests who stay within the county.

Voter approval is required once a venue project has been approved by the state attorney general.

However, the county will not be able to collect any such revenue until at least 2021 because the city of Austin currently collects the venue project tax to pay off its debt for the 2002 expansion of the Austin Convention Center. The city's debt expires in 2029, but city officials expect the debt will be paid off by 2021.

County leaders sought a commitment from the city to pay off the debt by 2021 at an Aug. 8 meeting, but the city stopped short of an enforceable commitment.

State law mandates no hotel guest can pay more than a 17% tax on their bill. Austin hotels have maxed out that cap, with 11% going to the city and 6% going to the state.

"I look forward to working with the City of Austin to determine how soon it will relinquish two percent of the hotel occupancy tax so that Travis County can make the voter-authorized investment in the Exposition Center," County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said in a statement.

Both the Travis County Democratic and Republican parties supported the proposition, as did Rodeo Austin, which has operated out of the expo center for 30 years.

Results are not final until they are canvassed. The Travis County Commissioners Court is scheduled to order canvassing elections returns at a work session on Nov. 14.


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