West Lake Hills voters will go to the polls Nov. 2 to decide the fate of a $25 million bond package to address the city’s aging infrastructure.
Council met virtually Aug. 11 to unanimously approve placing the bond election on the ballot.
The capital improvements bond will be the first in West Lake Hills since its incorporation in 1953, and the election has been roughly four years in the making. The bond package will encompass two separate propositions.
If approved, Proposition A will fund the construction of a new $13.2 million City Hall and police department to be built at the site of the existing municipal building on Westlake Drive. Community Impact Newspaper previously reported the numerous challenges associated with the current building, which included flooding and electrical issues. A 2018 architectural study commissioned by the city concluded that the building was in a state of disrepair, with the connected police department facing some of the largest shortcomings.
The second proposition, Proposition B, will tackle $11.8 million in roadway and drainage repairs throughout the city. The most significant drainage improvements would take place at the Eanes Creek low water crossing on Camp Craft Road, which has been the site of frequent flooding. The remaining projects include Laurel Valley Road, Redbud Trail, Terrace Mountain Drive, Westlake Drive and Yaupon Drive.
In 2020, the same list of infrastructure projects was scheduled to come before voters in May. However, in light of uncertainties created by the coronavirus pandemic, council decided to cancel the initial bond election. During the Aug. 11 meeting, Council Member Brian Plunkett said now is the right time to move forward with the election, in part due to low interest rates.
“[The bond] was in good shape a year ago when COVID[-19] derailed it, so I think with low interest rates, it’s really time to move ahead,” Plunkett said.
The exact impact on residents’ tax rates will, in part, depend on whether both propositions pass as well as the term of debt, which council has not officially announced. Notably, at the July council meeting, member Darin Walker said he was in favor of choosing a longer repayment period so residents saw a minimal tax impact over time.
In November, residents will also vote on a special election pertaining to sales and use tax. The proposition would repeal an additional sales and use tax at the rate of 0.5% dedicated to property tax relief and reallocate the funds to the maintenance and repair of municipal streets.
Mayor Linda Anthony said voters approved the additional sales and use tax in a 1995 election, around the time the Village at Westlake shopping center opened. The emerging retailers boosted the city’s sales tax revenue, and the additional dollars were used to provide property tax relief. However, that same year the council also passed an ordinance that reduced the amount the city collected out of the sales tax levy from $0.02 to $0.01, which Anthony said is still in place today.
“It has reduced the city’s coffers by $15 plus million over the years,” Anthony said.
As a result, she said the loss in funding has hindered the city’s ability to maintain and repair its infrastructure. The avoidance of these projects is, at least in part, the reason why the city is seeking a bond election. Moving forward, Anthony said it is critical that the city develops a steady revenue stream dedicated to these necessary projects, which, if approved by voters, could come from the additional sales tax in the range of $1 million per year.
If the election passed based on the fiscal year 2020-21 tax rate, residents would see a tax rate increase from $0.0786 per $100 of valuation to $0.1228. Additionally, If approved by a majority of voters the city will still need to call an election every four years to reauthorize the decision.