McAllen is gearing up for a $25 million bond election in May by hosting a series of events to “provide information to the voter,” according to City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez. But so far, voters don’t seem to be paying much attention.

Last Wednesday, McAllen Futuro hosted a panel discussion on the two bonds that will be on the ballot. Proposition A focuses on drainage upgrades for $22 million, and Proposition B would improve traffic control for $3 million.

The event was hosted at the McAllen Public Library auditorium, with very few in attendance. Those who were in the crowd included McAllen elected officials, like Commissioners Joaquin J.J. Zamora and Omar Quintanilla, and newly elected Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ellie Torres. Among the few concerned citizens in attendance were the O.W.L.S. wearing their brightly colored shirts; however more seats were left empty than filled.

“Personally, I’ve never been a part of putting so much information out there, but the primary reason for that is we understand bonds are a sensitive issue,” Rodriguez told Texas Scorecard. “Taxpayers in general are not for bond elections. The last bond issued was in 2013. We’re not here to promote the vote, just to provide information to the voter.”

The current bond proposals were originally intended for the November 2017 ballot, but last year Rodriguez recommended postponement so the city could separate out two other projects. The city issued a Certificate of Obligation for $5 million to fund a new fire station and a new parks and recreation building. However, voters will still have to approve the $25 million for drainage improvements and traffic control.

According to a 2015 Citizen Survey, McAllen residents expressed a need for an emphasis on the “flow of traffic/congestion management and the storm water management system.”

Since 2006, drainage projects within the city have increased due to heavy rains, as the rainfall has intensified throughout the years. The proposed $22 million bond would implement 23 various projects throughout the city as part of a master drainage plan of $48.9 million.

Director of Traffic Operations, Patricia Longoria, explained the city’s 208 “traffic signal brains” are in need of upgrading. The proposed $3 million bond would cover the hardware, communication, and engineering aspects for the upgrades.

The question is, what’s the effect on the taxpayer?

Should both propositions pass, it will amount to “only” $2 a month, or $24.01 a year, for the average home valued at $128,133. This would increase taxes for McAllen residents for 20 years for traffic control and 25 years for drainage improvements.

Those in attendance expressed concern over the upgrades and improvements as they feel this is just another misuse of bond funding at the expense of the taxpayers.

In the city’s last bond election in 2013, only six percent of McAllen’s registered voters cast their vote on three $15 million bonds that passed. The bonds funded the new Performing Arts Center, street improvements, and a youth baseball complex.

What if the bonds don’t pass? Rodriguez stated the city would have to seek other alternatives to move forward with their projects.

He also advised that the city is providing bond presentations for anyone that requests them. So far, the city has participated in five forums, three hosted by the city of McAllen, Futuro McAllen, and the McAllen South Rotary Club. More are scheduled to be hosted by the city this week, regardless of turnout.

Election Day is May 5. Early voting begins April 23.

Miriam Cepeda

Miriam Cepeda is the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for Texas Scorecard. A second-generation Mexican American, she is both fluent in English and Spanish and has been influential in grassroots organizing and conservative engagement within Hispanic communities. If you don’t find her “Trumping”, you can find her saving animals, running her dog, hiking the Andes, or volunteering with the U.S. National Park Service.