This is an important local election year. We in Aransas County must be involved and vote on the three Propositions on our ballot. We also must be informed with the facts on both sides of the issue.
I believe the residents of Aransas County have the intelligence and ability to decide what is best for our community today and for the future. Making the decision about how we grow, how much debt we are willing to take on, and how much exposure to higher taxes we are willing to risk is what is on the ballot right now. This belief is why I, and many others, petitioned the county’s proposed Certificates of Obligation this summer. I am proud of the community’s strong turnout for the petition and now ask you to exercise your well-earned right to vote.
Two decades ago the county had no debt. Despite our county tax rate going up 20% in the past 10 years, and a continuing rise in property values, the county is now approximately $14 million in debt. If all three propositions are passed, our debt will more than double to $34 million. A vote against the propositions sends a message that we expect our local government to live within its means, separate wants from needs, be transparent, and include us in major decisions from the start.
Though I support the building of a new courthouse, and ensuring health care is available in our county, here are the reasons why I, and many others, are against Propositions A and C as they stand.
I will vote against Proposition A, which authorizes the County to issue general obligation bonds in the amount of $17.235 million to construct a three-story courthouse with 55,000 square feet. The staff worked months on a 45,000 square foot two-story plan, and despite it being much larger than the prior 26,000-square-foot courthouse, it was dropped with little discussion during a mid-July meeting by commissioners who now “want” a three-story courthouse that will cost at least $6-7 million more than the two story plan. Let the county come back to us in the May election with a more affordable two-story courthouse.
I will vote for Proposition B, which is a $1.295 million bond to match about $14 million in grants for the purpose of road and drainage improvements and hazard mitigation. I support this proposition, as this is what county government is supposed to do for us.
I will vote against Proposition C, which authorizes the county to issue a bond for $1.37 million to match funds of the recently awarded $10.4 million grant to build a county building to be used as a micro hospital. There is no rush to do this today since we now have a new ER that will open this year in the old Code3ER location at no expense to the taxpayers. The county has not provided any plan or information about the micro hospital, e.g., what it will cost to maintain and operate, who is going to run it, where it will be located, what services will be offered, and will it compete against the new ER and doom both to failure as believed by several local experts? Great ideas without a plan are doomed to fail. The grant isn’t going away, so let the county come back to us in May with a plan we can vote on.
The past three years have been difficult for our community, first the hurricane, and now a pandemic, and many people and businesses are suffering financially. It is not a good time to saddle us with unneeded debt that will take years to pay off. Instead of the tired old “do it for the children” refrain, this debt will “do it to the children” by sticking them with a legacy of high taxes and wasteful spending.
I put my trust in you to vote for or against these bonds. Many worked hard to get the petition to the county so you can exercise your rights.