The Daily News supports Galveston County’s $80 million bond proposition and encourages voters to choose “Yes” on Nov. 7.
There are many reasons for that support, not the least of which is the fact the editors have in the past criticized county commissioners for reluctance to spend local money on worthy public projects. We argued the commissioner’s court had been inclined not to do anything unless it could be paid for with state or federal dollars.
This bond proposition puts that criticism to rest.
This bond proposition is the first since November 2008. That proposition was for $145 million, which voters approved.
Almost 10 years have passed since that election and the county has grown by at least 13 percent, from about 290,000 to almost 330,000.
That alone justifies the modest bond county commissioners propose.
We support the proposal for what it would achieve, as well.
Most of the money, $56 million, would be earmarked for road projects both in the unincorporated county and in cities in the county. The county has said it would commit $5 million to the Pelican Island Bridge project, for example. That’s a project of regional importance because it would allow for economic development and job creation on Pelican Island.
The county also would use $5 million as matching funds to leverage more money for Texas Department of Transportation projects, according to county documents.
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 told The Daily News.
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.
Traffic and mobility always top the lists of things residents want improved because traffic and mobility are always a problem in places where the population is growing. That sort of spending is just inevitable.
Another $18 million of the bond proceeds would be spent to improve county facilities, including $6.4 million for the medical examiner’s office, which is aging and too small; $2.7 million to update the League City Annex; and $1.7 million for the Bacliff Justice of the Peace building and a community center, according to the county.
Plans are to spend $6 million on drainage improvements. Like spending on traffic and mobility, that’s an area that always will need improvement. It’s also true, as commissioners have pointed out, that the spending on some road improvement projects also will improve drainage.
Commissioners think that servicing the bond debt won’t require 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 the expected 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.”
Projects to be funded with the bond are appropriate and the amount is reasonable. Voters should support the proposition.
Early voting for the bond begins Monday. Election Day is Nov. 7.
• Michael A. Smith