Drainage issues are at the top of residents’ minds after Hurricane Harvey, a concern county commissioners hope will inspire support for an $80 million bond package for road, drainage and facility improvements, which will be on the November ballot.
Voters will be asked to decide on an $80 million bond — $56 million earmarked for road projects, $18 million for county facility improvements and $6 million for drainage — when early voting begins Oct. 23 before the Nov. 7 election.
Under the proposed bond, cities across the county would receive about $40 million for road projects such as improvements to state Highway 96 and state Highway 3 in League City and 23rd Street in Galveston, Commissioner Ken Clark said.
Those projects were selected by city staffers and local governments after a request from County Judge Mark Henry for cities to weigh in on projects.
Commissioners anticipate a bond election can be held without a tax increase to county residents because of expected growth in the county’s tax base, which would bring in more tax revenue at the same rate, Clark said.
But without growth, an owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $23 a year more in county taxes in 2019 based on 2017 assessed values, Clark said.
Commissioners argue the bond is needed to pay for repairs and new projects in the growing county. The general fund can’t cover the repairs needed and a bond forces future residents to contribute to the improvements they will benefit from, commissioners said.
“If we don’t spend money on improving and maintaining our roads, it affects all of us and our quality of life,” Clark said.
“These are expensive items that will last for 30 to 50 years,” Henry said. “The concept of a bond to me is it’s a little unfair to ask all the people who live here now for the capital improvements. The people who live here for the next 30 years, should help pay for the projects.”
It is the first bond election since the Republicans took over leadership of the county in 2010. The county last held a bond election in November 2008 for $145 million, which voters approved. The package included $75 million for road projects, $45 million for facilities and $15 million for flood control.
Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Rockport on Aug. 25 and dumped more than 40 inches of rain over Galveston County during the following five days, highlighted the importance of proper drainage, commissioners said.
“With Harvey, fixing drainage wouldn’t have fixed everything because it was an epic storm, but we have drainage issues all the time that the bond can help fix,” Commissioner Joe Giusti said.
Commissioners also noted that road improvement projects would also make drainage improvements along those rights of way.
Commissioner Darrell Apffel had insisted on greater funding for unincorporated areas during workshops over the bond. In the ballot, the bond includes about $6 million for drainage projects in Bacliff and San Leon and money for renovations to county facilities in Bacliff, including the community center.
“Everything I felt was needed for the unincorporated areas was addressed, as far as the immediate needs,” Apffel said.
The county plans to pay for the bond by appropriating about 2 cents of the tax rate, which last year was 55.2 cents per $100 of taxable property valuation, toward paying off the bond, according to bond consultants. That figure could be less if the tax base increases by more than 3 percent.