League City voters face $145 million May bond election to address drainage, traffic

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On May 4, League City residents will decide more than just which Clear Creek ISD board members will represent the district.

With almost no discussion, the League City City Council on Jan. 22 voted to approve putting on the May ballot $145 million worth of bonds—$73 million to address drainage issues and $72 million to fix mobility problems.

The ballot will also ask voters to approve a 0.25 percent sales tax rate increase to help supplement the cost. If approved, revenue from the sales tax rate increase would be used only for drainage and traffic projects, according to the council’s vote.

The two bonds and sales tax rate increase will be three separate ballot measures.

League City has an 8 percent sales tax rate with 1.75 percent going to the city. If increased to 8.25 percent, the maximum allowed under state law, a full 2 percent would go toward the city, City Manager John Baumgartner has said.

If the sales tax rate increase is approved, the $145 million bond would not increase the city’s property tax rate, city officials have said.

City officials considered having the bond election in November, but staff pushed for a special May election because of residents’ growing concerns, especially about flooding.

“I think people are coming out of their front doors screaming for help,” Mayor Pat Hallisey said at an October meeting about the bonds. “I think the fear that runs through this town is immeasurable as it relates to drainage.”

The $145 million price tag is smaller than the city originally proposed. In October, city officials touted a $230 million bond proposal that included building a new library, council chambers, fire station and more.

By December, the potential bond cost had reached $250 million as city officials refined cost estimates.

With an annual budget of about $207 million, officials realized a $250 million bond was too much for residents to take on at once. Through various workshops and public meetings, the city pared the bond down to $145 million by eliminating everything but drainage- and traffic-related projects.

Council Member Todd Kinsey made a motion Jan. 22 to amend the reading to allow the election to include bonds for a new police department gun range and library and let the voters decide what they would support.

“If we’re gonna do direct democracy, let’s put it up there and let voters have their say,” he said.

The amendment was voted down.

According to a recent survey, most residents would not support bonds for either project but would support bonds for drainage and traffic and a sales tax rate increase. Of the more than 2,000 residents who took the survey, about 64 percent showed support for such bonds.

The bond does not include every drainage and traffic problem identified in the city. After Hurricane Harvey, the city hired engineers to study half a dozen neighborhoods that flooded the worst and found $121 million worth of projects.

The drainage bond does not include a $30 million diversion channel in the Bay Ridge area nor $10 million worth of improvements to the Oaks of Clear Creek subdivision, among others. City officials have said other drainage projects, both local and regional, will help address those problems.

League City has also identified about $88.5 million worth of traffic improvements. One proposed project that would expand Palomino Lane north over Clear Creek costs about $17 million—nearly 20 percent of all mobility projects. Considering its cost and how neighbors near Palomino have been pushing for years against the idea to expand the road, city staff recommended pulling the project from the bond, and council agreed.

The city will host meetings to educate the public about the proposed bonds over the next few months. The next one is 6-8 p.m. March 7 at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center, 400 W. Walker St., League City.

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Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for a few years, covering topics such as city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be an editor with Community Impact. In his free time, Magee enjoys playing video games, jamming on the drums and bass, longboarding and petting his cat.
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