San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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Activists questioning the county’s debt load have advocated, among other things, stopping construction on a new government building in San Marcos and putting the shell on the market. Their proposal to stop road funding this year would cost the county millions in a defaulted contract with the state, officials say. PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS


Hays County property taxes have increased a fraction of the rate approved by voters in bond elections in 2007 and 2008, elected officials said Tuesday at a workshop called to air doomsday forecasts being shopped around the county.

A group calling itself the Hays County Citizens’ Budget Project is ringing alarm bells over what it says is an unsustainable amount of debt. The resulting tax burden is so unbearable to average citizens, the group argues, that the county should halt all spending projects such as the planned widening of FM 1626 in the Buda area and the FM 2001 realignment and improvement work in Kyle. At a meeting in Buda on Monday, activist Sam Brannon suggested that officials might stop ongoing construction of a new county government building in San Marcos and sell the unfinished shell to the highest bidder.

“If we chose projects over people, it won’t serve anyone in Hays County,” Brannon said.

In Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, officials seemed both irritated and amused at Brannon’s PowerPoint mishmash of fact and fiction.

When voters approved $30 million in parks bonds in 2007 and up to $207 million in road bonds in 2008, they accepted a tax rate increase of six or seven cents to pay for the capital improvement projects. So far, the county has implemented a 1.42 cent rate increase to bring the total to the current rate of 46.92 cents per $100 in property.

“We are not even 12 percent of the way to what we told people could possibly happen and yet we are within budget and on time,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, who noted that the county must build the roads in its 2011 passthrough package to receive as much as $130 million reimbursement from the Texas Department of Transportation.

More than a dozen residents, including Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson and Buda city and economic development officials, urged commissioners to continue the construction of transportation projects.

Sensing the debate was not going her way, former commissioner Susie Carter rose in court and said, “This really is a charade isn’t it? Three of you were elected with campaigns based on being more conservative. I hope those weren’t empty promises.”

At that, Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said, “I campaigned on getting 1626 completed … I campaigned on better roads and infrastructure.”

If officials issue all of the $96 million in bonds scheduled this year and next, the county government will have $360 million in debt by 2013, county auditor Bill Herzog said.

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