The average Cedar Park homeowner is now paying roughly $500 more annually to their city council than they did just six years ago—and if residents aren’t wary of the candidates in their upcoming local election, they could find themselves paying even more.

Cedar Park citizens will soon vote to elect three city council members, but three candidates in the race have already demonstrated the kind of decisions they’d make in office—including raising taxes and using that money to make special deals with hand-picked businesses.

Candidates Anne Duffy, Heather Jefts, and Stephen Thomas are all incumbents running for re-election on the city council, and they all have consistently voted to raise taxes. Duffy and Jefts have voted for higher taxes both years they’ve been in office, and Thomas continually has during his intermittent terms since 2005.

All three candidates have also voted to use citizens’ cash on corrupt deals with hand-picked businesses. Here’s how these deals, commonly called “economic development agreements,” work: City council takes citizens’ tax money and gives it to a business they like, and in addition to the cash, city officials will often throw in other special perks such as tax rebates or even complete exemption from taxes.

Duffy, Jefts, and Thomas have all voted to hand over $1.5 million of citizens’ money to Alamo Drafthouse, and most recently, city council is planning a massive $60 million giveaway to a mixed-use development in town. All three candidates supported the deal.

To put it in perspective, the deals would be like city council officials knocking on your door, demanding you pay full taxes, then taking your money across the street and giving it to your next-door neighbor. Oh, and that neighbor doesn’t have to pay any taxes either.

Not exactly justice.

All three candidates have attempted to justify their actions on their websites, saying they’ve voted to lower the tax rate and, according to Anne Duffy’s “accomplishments” page, “authorized [an] Economic Development agreement [that brought] hundreds of jobs to Cedar Park with Hyliion.”

When it comes to taxes, lowering the tax rate doesn’t always mean lower tax bills. With the complicated way property taxes are calculated, local government officials can lower the tax rate from the previous year and still increase how much cash they’re actually taking out of your pocket.

And prior to setting the budget, officials are given data on the various tax rates they could set for that year and what the consequences will be—meaning they know beforehand if they’re actually increasing tax bills.

When it comes to corrupt deals, officials such as Duffy claim that giving away citizens’ money to a hand-picked company is a good investment to bring jobs to town.

Tell that to the local homeowners and family businesses who don’t get special perks and are actually paying for the other corporation’s exclusive benefits.

On top of the practice being unjust, it is well demonstrated that businesses don’t make their relocation decisions based on a local government’s handouts; plus, those handouts are often worth pathetically small and inconsequential fractions of the companies they try to “lure.”

The bottom line in all of this is: Cedar Park’s city council has taken more of citizens’ cash and used it on unjust, unnecessary special deals for privileged businesses. And while they have done that, the average homeowner could have had hundreds more in their wallet to provide for their families.

Duffy, Jefts, and Thomas have already demonstrated the decisions they’ll make, and all face opponents in the upcoming election.

Early voting runs from April 22-29, with Election Day on May 4.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.