WilCo moves forward with bond plan, discusses debt amount

Commissioners have set a bond plan in motion for building and facility needs that could reach as much as $70 million.

Commissioners began discussing the bonds in late February, and on March 24 approved a resolution to authorize certificates of obligation for needs listed in a Capital Improvement Project Plan.

"We brought this up several weeks ago. We've had public meetings in most precincts," Judge Dan Gattis said. "This will now start a 30-day-plus period for the public to make formal presentations, if they so desire, to us."

Certificates of obligation, unlike general obligation bonds, are issued without voter approval.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman said she would rather ask for voter approval of the bonds. However, no one else on the court supported her motion.

"The reason I wanted to go to general obligation bonds is our overall debt [is] over a billion dollars with what's already been approved by the voters," Birkman said. "Hays County actually had some issues with their bond rating because of their overall debt. We have the most debt of any county in the area, and before we go any more in debt, I would like the voters to have an opportunity to weigh in on that."

The proposed $70 million is the most the county could issue without affecting the debt service tax rate of $0.1675 per $100 of property valuation.

The county will authorize its final amount, which commissioners Valerie Covey and Cynthia Long said they hope to lower, at the May 5 Commissioners Court meeting.

"I'm going to vote for this only because it's the cap," Covey said. "I'm not sure that I'm going to vote for $70 million in 30 days."

According to the county's resolution for the certificates of obligation, funds will be used for constructing, improving and renovating facilities; purchasing necessary land; and equipping county buildings.

"With the way this is worded, if a year from now something pops up that we really need to get done, we can get it done," Gattis said. "I don't want to tie us down where we're just going to build a building and not have the ability to do [these other projects]."

According to the county's Capital Improvement Project Plan, improvements to the county's North Campus building at 3151 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown, include more than $20 million in proposed projects.

Carol Polumbo, the court's bond attorney, said the county has three years to issue the bonds and must approve each proposed project before work begins.

"... Under federal tax law, we need to have a reasonable expectation that we can spend the money in three years," she said. "It cannot be a project that we know is a four-year project."