San Marcos City Council to consider Lone Star Rail Dec. 17

The city of San Marcos may have a funding mechanism in place to support its involvement in the Lone Star Rail District by the end of 2013.

On Dec. 3, Steve Parker, assistant city manager and chief financial officer of the city of San Marcos, said city staff and Lone Star Rail officials have been meeting weekly since October discussing the project.

Potential players in the Lone Star Rail project include the cities of Austin, Georgetown, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos and San Antonio, as well as Hays and Travis counties and other entities. The rail would provide commuter service between Georgetown and San Antonio with stops planned in each participating city.

San Marcos is considering a tax increment reinvestment zone to help fund the Lone Star Rail. Creation of the TIRZ would allow the city to utilize a portion of the increased sales and property taxes that are collected within the zone over a certain period of time.

Councilman Wayne Becak said he was concerned the city of San Marcos might be moving too quickly with the proposal.

"The rail proposal is good and it's something we want to see, but I'm just concerned if we jump out there, wanting to contribute more of our city revenue when Austin is not or San Antonio is not even moving forward with this," Becak said. "I think we want to be in, but I think we should wait and work the numbers a little harder ourselves."

The city of Austin is funding a portion of its involvement in the district through Capital Metro, and when the results of a study related to the city's urban rail is completed it will make a decision about other funding sources, Parker said. San Antonio is exploring various funding options for its participation in the district as well.

Several entities including Hays and Travis counties, Kyle and Austin Community College have postponed making a decision about their involvement in the funding the district.

Councilman John Thomaides, who has served on the board of directors of the Lone Star Rail District, said Austin and San Antonio have each contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the project through their metropolitan planning organizations. Waiting for more contributions from those cities would not be in the district's best interest, he said.

"[Waiting] is certainly one way to proceed, but that doesn't advance the prospects of Lone Star Rail in the long term," Thomaides said.

City Manager Jim Nuse said City Council would consider creation of the TIRZ at its meeting Dec. 17.