Montgomery County considers new bondMontgomery County is planning for a new bond election after voters turned down a $350 million proposal May 9. A date for a new bond is still being debated among county commissioners and County Judge Craig Doyal. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack supports a November vote while others are in favor of waiting until November 2016.

Commissioners Mike Meador of Precinct 1 and Jim Clark of Precinct 4 have each said they likely would not be in favor of a November 2015 bond, but would rather bring a proposal to county voters next year.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said he would be open to considering a November 2015 vote but expressed concern about having enough time to compile a list of projects that could meet voter approval.

“I’m not going to say I won’t support another bond issue this year,” Riley said. “But I don’t know that there is time to put together a bond issue everyone is going to accept.”

To establish a bond election, three of the four county commissioners would need to vote in favor of the proposal.

Doyal said the court would have to decide on a November 2015 bond vote by Aug. 11.

The future of a bond

What the commissioners do all agree on, however, is that another bond election is needed.

[polldaddy poll=8925537]

“There will be a new bond, and no doubt Woodlands Parkway was an issue,” Doyal said. “We’ll probably take a lot of projects out [of the next proposal] and put together a plan that everyone can support.”

More than 57 percent of voters, or 16,222, opposed the bond, while nearly 43 percent, or 12,144, voted in favor of it. The bond drew about 10 percent of the county’s registered voters, 4 percent more than the 2011 Montgomery County bond proposal. That bond proposal also failed to meet voter approval. This year’s bond proposed by the county did not include a county property tax increase.

“The Commissioners Court must make a decision—do we learn from the failure and proceed immediately with a bond the community can support, or do we procrastinate and do nothing?” Noack said. “To me, the answer is obvious—we move forward with a bond this November.”

Clark said he likely would not have enough time to conduct the appropriate thoroughfare studies in time for a November 2015 bond.

“From our precinct’s [perspective], I don’t even think we should even consider bringing [a bond] back for November,” he said. “I need to get some studies [completed] to substantiate it. I think the only way I’ll have time is do it the following November.”

Woodlands voters overwhelmingly opposed the bond, with 8,247 of the 9,888 total voters voting against it. However the proposal garnered relatively low support in other parts of the county as well.

“If we are to be honest, the bond failed because of [the Woodlands Parkway extension],” Noack said. “You can negate the biggest hurdle by removing the parkway [from a future bond proposal].”

Montgomery County considers new bondWoodlands Parkway

This year’s bond included 77 projects among the four county precincts. Among those items was a six-mile extension of Woodlands Parkway from FM 2978 to Hwy. 249 located in Precinct 2.

Noack said the Woodlands Parkway extension should be removed from any future bond proposal.

“We must … remove the Woodlands Parkway extension, prioritize projects based on need and establish a separate fund to address maintenance projects,” he said. “If the court is willing to make these wise changes, I believe the voters will enthusiastically support the bond.”

Riley said he would consider removing the Woodlands Parkway extension from a future bond.

“If I had to say today if I would include Woodlands Parkway in the next bond, I would say no,” he said. “But I don’t believe Woodlands Parkway is the only reason this bond election failed.”

Riley said he believed some voters perceived the bond included “pet projects” and funding for projects they felt were unnecessary.

Gordy Bunch served on the Montgomery County Mobility Committee, which was charged by Commissioners Court to compile a list of needed projects for the bond. Bunch, is a director on The Woodlands Township board, resigned from the committee in March after it included the Woodlands Parkway in its list of projects.

“County officials need to consult professional transportation experts, eliminate Woodlands Parkway from the plan, delete maintenance projects, and deliver near-term immediate needs planned in a county-wide mobility study for reconsideration by voters,” Bunch said.

Montgomery County considers new bondProposal considerations

In addition to the Woodlands Parkway extension, opponents of the May bond, including Bunch and the Texas Patriots political action committee, cited what they considered to be unnecessary expenses for maintenance projects in some precincts.

Meador included $11.5 million for what he referred to as “miscellaneous and local street repairs” for Precinct 1. Meador said his list of projects for a future bond election would remain about the same as it was for the May proposal, including money allocated for maintenance projects.

“[My list of projects] is not going to change a lot,” he said. “For those maintenance projects, the only way to fix those major projects on our major thoroughfares is through  a bond issue. I will still have those issues on a proposal.”

Doyal said the county does not otherwise have the money for maintenance repairs like those requested by Meador.

“To say that maintaining our existing infrastructure is a poor idea is counterproductive to what needs to be done, [especially] when we have professionals telling us we need to address it,” Doyal said. “We need a maintenance program, but our current budget simply won’t address it. We’ve got to find ways to do that.”

Noack said a solution could be to create a separate fund for maintenance projects throughout the county. Smaller projects could be handled by the county budget while larger ones could be funded by bond money.

“We need to do a better job of explaining the maintenance projects and what those are,” Noack said.

Meador said he believes any future bond proposal should be less than the $350 million put forth to voters in May. To pare down the bond amount to $250 million, Meador said other commissioners would need to remove projects on their list of proposals.

“To me, $350 million is a little too much,” he said. “We can [propose] a $200 [million] to $250 million bond that would pretty much guarantee that we would not have any tax rate increase.”

Noack said the county should hold a series of public meetings to gauge resident input for a list of projects.

The Woodlands Township was the first in what is likely to be several entities to formally request the Commissioner’s Court hold a November 2015 bond vote.

At at June 3 meeting, the township board unanimously adopted a resolution requesting a bond be put forth to voters in November 2015 “expressly excluding the Woodlands Parkway extension.”