Opposition voiced on Travis County civil courts bond

With only a few weeks before the Nov. 3 election, two organizations have voiced their opposition to a proposed $287.3 million bond election for a new civil and family courts complex, or CFCC, in downtown Austin.

The proposed CFCC, which is on the Nov. 3 ballot, would cause a property tax increase of about $13.50 annually per $100,000 of taxable valuation for homeowners, according to the county. The Travis County Commissioners Court sought ways to lower the budget as well as offset the tax burden, including selling under-utilized county property and using parking revenue from evenings and weekends.

Taxes and ease of access are the main concerns for the Travis County Republican Party, which unanimously approved a resolution opposing the bond at an Oct. 14 meeting, TCRP Communications Director Andy Hogue said.

The proposed location—on Guadalupe Street between Third and Fourth streets—is also an issue according to the TCRP's resolution, which states the courthouse site selection analysis was performed between the years of 1999 and 2001 and was too focused on keeping the facilities downtown for the convenience of attorneys who use the courthouse, Hogue said.

“We need to put the courthouse closer to where there are actual families in Austin,” Hogue said.

Also on Oct. 14, the Travis County Taxpayers Union announced its opposition to the bond.

“This is just another straw that is breaking the camel’s back in terms of affordability,” TCTU analyst Bill Worsham said.

The county does need a new civil courthouse, but the TCTU wants the county and city to work together to come up with location alternatives beyond downtown, Worsham said.

Some Austin City Council members have asked the Austin city manager to work with Travis County on finding land in East Austin that would be suitable for the new courts complex, and the TCTU agrees with that effort, Worsham said.

“This isn’t about pinching pennies or not wanting to spend any money on anything. This is about the planning process that led [the county] to this conclusion that six city blocks downtown can best be used, and the families and the taxpayers that are having to either use or pay for these facilities are best served, by a downtown campus when no other less expensive alternative was even explored,” he said.

Building the courthouse in East Austin would spur economic development in that area, he said. Worsham, who is also a civil engineer and 20-year Austin resident, said voters will begin to see highway signs soon asking voters to “vote no” on the bond.

“[The proposed site] would be just as functional and just as valuable a part of the community and the economics of the downtown if it were in private hands,” he said.

More information about the proposed CFCC plans are available at www.traviscountytx.gov.


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