Collin County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Monday to place three bond propositions totaling $750 million on the November 6 ballot.
The bulk of the borrowing, $600 million, is allocated to “the construction of non-tolled, high-speed highways and freeways throughout the county.”
Another $140 million is for construction of arterial roadways and thoroughfares, including joint county-city projects.
The remaining $10 million is designated for parks and open space.
The county’s transportation bond plan, first presented in May, focuses on three major projects: the east-west US 380 corridor, a north-south corridor along SH 78, and the Outer Loop around northern and eastern Collin County. Most of the bonds are slated to fund the initial steps of development for the projects, including right-of-way acquisition, over the next five years. The county then plans to call for another road bond election.
For arterials and thoroughfares, commissioners proposed prioritizing spending on an annual basis during the five years of the bond program. Selecting specific projects each year, which cities would nominate with matching funds already allocated, would get tax dollars into use as quickly as possible.
“The Commissioners Court action recognizes the need to plan for the future,” Darrell Hale told Texas Scorecard in May. Hale is a candidate for County Commissioner in Precinct 3, which covers central and northeast Collin County, and is endorsed by Texans For Fiscal Responsibility.
“This is a much better alternative to allowing the spread of tolled roads across North Texas,” Hale added.
During road bond discussions earlier in the year, residents opposed spending county funds on future toll roads. Some also questioned the need for county taxpayers to incur the debt on these projects. With interest, the cost to taxpayers will be significantly higher than $750 million.
“It isn’t a question of whether we need the highways and roads, but how they get funded,” Hale said.
Commissioners said in May that the county would not raise taxes because of the bonds. County Judge Keith Self confirmed to Texas Scorecard in June that he expected to vote this year for the effective tax rate — a rate that keeps taxpayers’ property tax bills steady amid rising property values. Commissioners Cheryl Williams and Susan Fletcher said they also anticipated lowering the property tax rate for 2018.
Last week, commissioners did in fact vote to lower the county’s tax rate, approving a budget based on the effective rate for a third consecutive year. Growth has allowed the county to adopt the effective rate for seven of the last ten years while continuing to fund needed services.
Other taxing entities in the county are not as taxpayer-friendly. Collin College is raising its property tax rate nearly four percent over last year’s rate and almost 12 percent higher than the effective rate. Cities and school districts throughout the county are also raising property tax burdens on local residents.
Though some local officials are proposing tax rates that are lower than last year, the rates are higher than the effective rate — meaning more tax revenue for local governments to spend and higher tax bills for local taxpayers.
Texas Scorecard will provide continuing coverage of local governments’ taxing and spending plans.