Fulshear City Council and city staff debated funding for future parks projects at the City Council meeting Jan. 23.

The gist

City Council heard a presentation from the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission that proposed calling for a $56.13 million parks bond, potentially in May. The agenda item wasn’t to approve the bond proposal but to present identified projects and see if council was interested in receiving an official proposal for a vote, city officials said.

The details

Kimberly Bow, chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, said the seven-member commission ranked the parks' needs by priorities. Bow’s presentation showed the priority projects include:
  • Primrose Park ($19.01 million): Building phases 2 and 3 of the park, which would bring four youth baseball fields with lighting, a restroom and concession facility, parking and detention in Phase 2. Phase 3 would include an amphitheater, additional parking, walking trails, a playground and food truck parking.
  • Irene Stern Recreation Center ($18.27 million): The project would add a recreation center, building a gymnasium, fitness room, indoor walking track and locker rooms.
  • Irene Stern Park improvements ($4.7 million): The project would improve the park by adding walking trails, play structures, pickleball and tennis courts, and a pavilion.
  • Land acquisition ($2.5 million): This would secure land for future parks. Sites to consider included land near Primrose Park, FM 1093 along Bois D’Arc Lane, east of FM 359 near Huggins Drive tie-in and west of Wallis Street.
  • 5-acre park ($6.31 million): This would be a prototype park to build on acquired land. The park could include more sports courts, athletic fields, a playground and parking.
  • Frances Smart Park ($5.33 million): The project would renovate the park to create a plaza for events and a veteran’s memorial.
“In order to build the types of ball fields and the park and experience our residents have grown accustomed to, I’m not sure relying solely on budgeted dollars is going to be enough to give the public what they desire when it comes to Primrose,” Mayor Aaron Groff said.

However, after about an hour and a half of discussion, most City Council members agreed they’re not ready to consider a parks bond for the May election and instead want to dive deeper into the cost of the projects—in particular the ongoing Primrose Park project.

The cost

In a Jan. 24 phone interview, Fulshear Finance Director Erin Tureau said depending on the combination of bond projects, the city’s tax rate could increase approximately $0.04 to $0.09 from its fiscal year 2023-24 rate of $0.169067 per $100 property valuation.

If it increased by $0.09—which would include all projects minus the 5-acre prototype park—that would mean the city must rebate municipal utility districts 8% of its property tax revenue it receives from residents within the respective MUD, Tureau said. This is due to a development agreement the city has with certain MUDs within city limits that includes a tier system where the city rebates more money to MUDs the higher its property tax rate.

This means the bigger the city’s bond, the bigger the city’s rebate to the MUDs, Tureau said. Council members said they would rather the city stay within its lower tax tier—the $0.04 tax increase—to limit the MUD rebate.

The backstory

Phase 1 of Primrose Park, located at 7603 Patterson Road, includes walking trails and parking, with the city planning to add more features to the 25-acre park in future phases.

City staff has set aside roughly $6.1 million for the design and construction of Phase 2 as well as design of Phase 3 in the fiscal year 2023-24 budget so far, Assistant Director of Public Works Tiffany Stodder said.

At the Jan. 23 meeting, council also voted to increase the design contract to $990,000 to allow engineering design firm Halff to design phases 2 and 3. Stodder said the design of Phase 2 will wrap up soon, but $6.1 million isn’t enough to build Phase 2 due to utility challenges and inflation.

“We want to build a park that we can all be proud of—not build a park that has no lights [and] has bare bones,” Stodden said. “After all this time, if we do that and you can’t even play during the spring due to the time change, ... ultimately, it’s not really the most usable park for our community.”

What they’re saying

Council member Debra Cates said she's not ready to proposed a parks bond for residents.

“What buys it for me is to get it accurate, something that I’m comfortable in representing to my constituents, not to just go rush something just to have it on a bond election,” she said.

However, council member Kent Pool pushed back against the idea the proposal was “rushed” and said the parks committee has diligently worked through the proposal.

“The parks committee has been talking about this for four months. It’s not like we’re rushing into it—nothing’s been rushed,” he said.

What’s next

Council members asked for more clarity about what the city’s $6 million investment was funding on the Primrose Park project. After much discussion, council requested city staff come back with a financial breakdown and project details on Primrose Park.

With Groff’s term ending in May, he stressed the importance of prioritizing the park, saying there's been "zero accountability on Primrose."

“Somebody needs to step up and own the fact that we have delayed this design, that we have delayed this project, that we’re even having this conversation today because it’s two years old. That’s the problem with Primrose itself,” he said. “We can’t do anything anywhere else, until we get Primrose done, because we’ve been promising Primrose since 2017 when the land was purchased."