Early voting began yesterday for several bond initiatives, both local and statewide. Below are some thoughts on how your votes will relate to economic development.
For a few of the potential amendments to the Texas Constitution on the November ballot, you will be asked to vote with your heart. A few more are items meant to “clean up” the Constitution, but the big deal—for both the state and the Highland Lakes—is No. 6, which relates to the State Water Implementation Fund.
Successful passage of this amendment will go a long way in establishing some funding to address critical water projects in Texas. For many decades, there has been inequitable treatment of agricultural interests when compared to municipal and residential interests, but No. 6 will help level the playing field. Water is on the minds of economic developers everywhere, as the continuation of our existing approach to water will cause Texas’s economic progress and prosperity to come to a screeching halt. Antiquated policies and pricing related to our most valuable resource must be replaced by new approaches that accommodate continued population increases, support growth in innovation and productivity, and protect the interests of users across the spectrum.
MARBLE FALLS ISD BOND ELECTION
The Marble Falls ISD is asking voters to consider a bond election that would provide more than $6.5 million in improvements to the career and technical education program, technology upgrades, and necessary maintenance. Because the ISD is proposing a tax shift to minimize the amount of the recapture payment due to the state, the $6.5 million in bonds issued would not result in a property tax rate increase. Regardless of your feelings toward the “Robin Hood” approach to school finance, it has been a travesty to see a property-wealthy district such as MFISD have to send so much money back to the state (more than $4.4 million last year) when there are so many local needs that remain unmet.
From an economic development standpoint, local control is almost always better than control held at higher levels. Moreover, investments in education lead to a better business climate, especially when those investments include allocations for career and technical education. I had the privilege of sitting on the steering committee that looked at the CTE program last fall and spring, and one of our primary goals was to do a better job of aligning district resources, student interest, and the labor market through CTE. If approved, a large portion of the bonds issued through this election will support this very important endeavor.
CITY OF MARBLE FALLS
There are a couple of propositions on the City’s portion of the ballot that would also fall under the “clean up” category, but issues related to quality-of-life initiatives and how City Council is elected should generate some interest among voters.
Bond Proposition 1 relates to the issuance of just over $2 million in bonds to build a new aquatic center in the City. Community leaders have tried to find a way for years to deal with a city swimming pool that is falling into obsolescence, and this bond would pave the way for the facility relocation that would alleviate the topographic challenges at the existing pool and allow for the year-round use of a very valuable piece of City-owned property.
Bond Proposition 2 would provide $1 million for reconfiguration of existing athletic fields and the construction of new athletic fields adjacent to Downtown. It doesn’t go nearly as far as the sports complex discussion last year went, but it would get a few things started.
Proposition 1 of the Special Charter Amendment Election would change the election of City Council members from an at-large method to a place-based system similar to that used by the school district. Your vote here will essentially boil down to a matter of taste; I think arguments can be made on both sides of the coin.
For more information on ballot language, please visit Burnet County’s web site.