Collin County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas, and traffic there is growing too.
Based on growth projections, county commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a countywide bond election for November that will include two propositions totaling $740 million in bond debt principal for road projects.
Proposition 1 calls for $600 million for the development of additional high-speed, limited access highways. Proposition 2 calls for $140 million for arterial roadways and thoroughfares. A third bond proposition calls for $10 million for parks and open space projects.
“These bond funds will pave the way for an eventual robust transportation infrastructure serving more than two million people,” County Judge Keith Self said in a statement following the court’s action.
The county’s transportation plan focuses on three major projects: the east-west US 380 corridor, a north-south corridor along SH 78, and the Outer Loop around northeast and eastern Collin County.
The proposed bonds are slated to fund the initial steps of development for the projects, including right-of-way acquisition, over a five-year period (2019–2023). The county plans to call for another road bond election in five years.
“This is the right way to go,” said Darrell Hale, a candidate for County Commissioner, Precinct 3, which covers central and northeast Collin County. Hale is endorsed by Texans For Fiscal Responsibility.
“This is a much better alternative to allowing the spread of tolled roads across North Texas,” Hale told Texas Scorecard. “It isn’t a question of whether we need the highways and roads, but how they get funded.”
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held public meetings last week to show county residents five routing options for extending US 380 across the county. Self says four possible north-south highway routes are under study.
For arterials and thoroughfares, commissioners proposed prioritizing spending on an annual basis during the five years of the bond program. Cities would nominate specific projects with matching funds already allocated. This policy change would get tax dollars into use as quickly as possible.
Exact language for each proposition will be considered at a future meeting.
Self said that the county’s tax rate will not increase because of these bonds. But with appraised property values continuing to rise, keeping the tax rate the same will mean higher property tax bills for residents and more tax revenue for the county — as the judge himself noted last year:
If we choose instead to go with the no-new-taxes tax rate–keeping the dollar amount you pay the same as last year—the county would still collect an additional $10 million from new construction which continues to grow at a healthy pace. This is what’s also called the “effective rate”–it keeps your tax dollars equal to last year regardless of appraisal increase.
Former commissioner Chris Hill, who’s running in November to replace the retiring Self as County Judge, said he hopes the county will actually “reduce the property tax rate for a sixth consecutive year later this summer.” The same growth that is putting pressure on the county’s roadways will generate new tax revenues to help pay off the road debt.
Collin County currently has the lowest tax rate of any county in the state. About 10 percent of residents’ total property tax bill goes to the county.
Hale said that the court has been a good steward of the county’s tax dollars, going eleven years without a bond election and waiting to propose new bonds until constituents could see exactly how the funds will be used.
County voters last approved a road bond in November 2007, in the amount of $235.6 million.
Commissioners had considered putting another road bond on the ballot last year. But Judge Self polled constituents and found that a majority wanted to wait until the county could give voters specific details of how their tax dollars would be spent.
“The Commissioners Court action recognizes the need to plan for the future,” Hale said. “These bonds fund the advance ground work and are a precursor to additional highways and major arterials.”
TxDOT will be presenting more information on the US 380 expansion project at the next Commissioners Court meeting on May 14.