League City officials are considering a May bond election that would ask residents for permission to borrow up to $230 million to address flooding, traffic and other issues in the city.
The amount is higher than the city’s operational and capital budgets, which total $207.76 million.
“Some other source has to be sought,” Assistant City Manager Bo Bass said.
If the bond is approved, the city’s property tax rate of $0.5638 per $100 valuation could increase by 10 cents or more, Council Member Nick Long said.
The city’s goal would be to limit the effect on taxpayers, Bass said.
City staff on Tuesday unveiled the plan to the League City City Council during a workshop meeting.
Bass said the $230 million cost estimate is based on “orders of magnitudes” but have not been detailed. The city would not need to ask for the full $230 million if it secured supplemental funding, such as grant money, for various projects, Bass said.
The bond money would cover projects in four categories: drainage, mobility, the library and public safety.
In a recent citywide survey, 56 percent of residents said they were most concerned about flooding, transportation and growth, Bass said.
“That gave staff cause for concern,” he said.
After Hurricane Harvey flooded a quarter of League City’s housing stock, the city ordered six drainage studies of the subdivisions that flooded the worst. Engineers are starting to share the results of those studies and have identified 26 drainage projects totaling $120 million, Bass said.
That total does not include solutions needed along Clear Creek or Dickinson Bayou. Those problems are so large that a regional—not a city—solution is required, Bass said.
Drainage is a crucially important topic to League City residents who still fear flooding again, he said.
“There’s a sense of urgency every time it rains,” Bass said.
Mayor Pat Hallisey agreed.
“I think people are coming out of their front doors screaming for help,” he said. “I think the fear that runs through this town is immeasurable as it relates to drainage.”
The city will seek grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Water Development Board, Bass said.
“We are aggressively pursuing as many leverage opportunities as we can,” he said.
Mobility is another huge issue in League City, which continues to grow by thousands of residents annually. The increased traffic issues are a symptom of League City’s success, Bass said.
“It’s a good thing to have, unless you’re sitting in the traffic,” he said.
The city has identified $65 million worth of road projects to alleviate traffic congestion, including reconstructing Calder Drive and Grissom Road and extending Landing Boulevard north of FM 518 and over Clear Creek.
Residents have been pushing to add a library on the west side of the city. The estimated cost for such a project is $23 million, Bass said.
The city has also identified $22 million worth of public safety needs, such as constructing a $14 million central fire station and building a $3 million indoor gun range for police to use. Another $5 million could go toward other facilities, such as remodeling the council chambers, Bass said.
The city is recommending general obligation bonds to cover these projects because those are typically used to fund large projects that stand the test of time, Bass said.
“These represent who we are,” he said.
The key is taxpayers get to decide how much the city borrows and for what projects, he said.
“It really places the decision where it should be: on the majority of the voters,” Bass said.
The city wants to take the bond to voters in May because there is a sense of urgency to get these projects started and take action now, Bass said.
Staff will host several town halls to educate the public about the projects and hear their input, he said.
“It’s imperative that we have public input and public buy in, or we’re just spinning our wheels,” Bass said.
Long expressed concern with the bond election considering how much it could affect property tax rates. It might be foolhardy to tackle some of the bond projects simultaneously, Long said.
“I do think we need to be careful about taking such a large general obligation bond out at one time,” he said.
League City does not typically hold May elections, so Long suggested pairing the bond election with Clear Creek ISD’s May election to convenience voters.
Council Member Hank Dugie said he would prefer a November election but said it would be best to put all the options on the ballot and let the voters decide how the city should proceed.
Hallisey agreed the projects the city recommended for the bond election are important. He also agreed with holding the election in May.
“I think the time to do it is now because the interest is there,” he said. “At least give them a chance to say what they want and don’t want.”
The city’s first town hall will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center to discuss drainage issues and the bond election.