Saturday, October 22, 2011

Early Voting for 2011 Elections Begins Monday

Early Voting for the Texas Constitutional Amendment Election begins MONDAY, October 24, and Election Day is November 8, 2011.  All Texans will vote on 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.  Some of these proposals are controversial, and several entities have put together Free Voters Guides.  Again, there is a fantastic round-up of the various guides and analyses at Michele Samuelson's blog, Blue Dot Blues.

There are a variety of proposals on local ballots in Williamson County.

Hutto Independent School District is asking voters to approve a tax increase of $.06 per $100 valuation.  This will give HISD residents a school tax rate of $1.60. 

The City of Round Rock has 10 of its own propositions on the ballot.  Propositions #1-8 are merely 'housekeeping,' and update terms and definitions in the City Charter.  Propositions #9 and #10 are more controversial. 

*Proposition 9 adds 2% to the local hotel tax to finance an indoor sports venue.  The tax is estimated to bring in $630,000 per year, and the sports facility is estimated to cost $12 million, which, according to the city website "does not include land, design and engineering costs or related infrastructure."  It is unclear as to whether the venue tax will cover all costs.    

*Proposition 10 regards a half-cent sales tax approved by voters back in 1997.  The original approval was under the condition that the funds would be used only for major road and transportation projects related to economic development.  This tax, called "Type B revenue," is limited by Texas law to economic development programs, and Round Rock originally limited theirs to road and transportation.  If voters approve Proposition 10, the city can use the revenues for other economic development projects as defined by State Law.  According to literature from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs these uses include:

"Paying for land, buildings, equipment, facilities expenditures, targeted infrastructure and improvements found suitable for the use of...professional and amateur sports and athletic facilities, tourism and entertainment facilities, convention facilities, public park purposes and event facilities (including stadiums, ballparks, concert halls, etc.) * related store, restaurant, concession, parking and transportation facilities * related street, water and sewer facilities * affordable housing."   

The City of Round Rock has an informational page regarding these propositions, and the literature from the Texas Comptroller's office is available here 

Highlands at Mayfield Ranch Municipal Utility District, Northwoods Road District No. 1, Williamson County Water, Sewer, Irrigation and Drainage District No. 3, Wilco-Liberty Hill MUD, and others are seeking voter approval for various bond packages, (which amount to approval for a tax increase.)  Williamson County Emergency Services District No. 1 (Jollyville) is seeking approval of a 1% local sales and use tax. 

Sample ballots are available at the Williamson County Elections Department website.  

Remember that during the Early Voting period, you may vote at any location in the county.  However, on Election Day you may only vote at the assigned location for your precinct.  

FULL TIME LOCATIONS, Open Oct. 24-November 2, 8am to 6pm, No Sunday Voting, and November 3 and 4 7am to 7pm. 

Main Location:  Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown.

Branch Locations: 
Anderson Mill Limited District
Cedar Park Public Library
Parks & Recreation Admin. Building, Georgetown
McConico Building, Round Rock
Brushy Creek Community Center, Round Rock
Taylor City Hall
Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, Leander
Cedar Park Randalls, Cypress Creek Road
Round Rock Randalls, Gattis School Road
J.B. and Hallie Jester Annex, Round Rock

MOBILE - TEMPORARY LOCATIONSMonday, October 24 through Wednesday, November 2, 10am to 6pm, No Sunday Voting
Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4, 7am to 7pm

Oct 24, Monday:   Seton Medical Center Williamson, 201 Seton Parkway, Round Rock
Oct 25, Tuesday:  Granger City Hall, 214 E. Davilla, Granger
Oct 26, Wednesday:  RR Higher Education Center, Round Rock                                             
Oct 27, Thursday:  Clairmont Retirement Community, 12463 Los Indios Trail, Austin               
Oct 28, Friday:  Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill
Oct 29, Saturday:  Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill 
Oct 31, Monday:  Jarrell Memorial Park, 1651 CR 305, Jarrell     
Nov 1, Tuesday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto       
Nov 2, Wednesday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
Nov 3, Thursday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
Nov 4, Friday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto                            



7028a012-fe7e-11e0-b4e3-000bcdcb471e said...

On Prop 10; Last year, the Mayor and Council said that 90% of the funds would remain dedicated to road projects and only 10% would go to Economic Development. I don't see a similar committment this year. Does last year's resolution still stand, or are they being even more bold; asking for even more autonomy this time around?

Holly Hansen said...

The only language I've seen indicates the proposal will allow the funds to be used for "other economic development programs as allowed by state law," so I'd conclude that it's pretty wide open.

Gunnar Ristroph said...

Proposition 10 and The Race To The Bottom

Proposition 10, the last issue on a ballot that voters will decide this week, allows the City of Round Rock to use a bucket of money that current is reserved only for transportation improvements for other “economic development” uses. Supporters include business and city leaders: a who’s who in Round Rock: current and former mayor, city council members, Chamber of Commerce members and the ilk.

When a big business goes to decide where to locate a big facility or office, they shop around with various state and city governments for the best deal they can get. State governments regularly offer money to business from the manufacturing to the film industry for locating in their state. The city governments offer them all sorts of goodies as well: tax abatements, cash payments, reimbursements. For the sake of brevity, I’ll refer to them as “hand-outs.”

Proposition 10 in Round Rock would allow some money that previously could only go to roads to go to hand-outs.

The economic development cheerleaders say that this is the only way that Round Rock can continue to attract businesses to locate here. Other cities are giving taxes to big business - so should we! It’s the only way we can get businesses to locate here.

Because it hasn’t been presented, I will briefly present the counter argument. Subsidizing business for the sake of economic development just doesn’t work. It undermines the true incentive structure that is key to free market economics. Businesses should be deciding where to locate based on real economic drivers: the talent pool and infrastructure available and proximity to suppliers and customers. Not hand-outs. Hand-outs just pervert the process and leave the locality with higher taxes - after all, the hand-outs aren’t free, they must be paid for with taxes, one way or another.

Many business leaders are painfully aware of this. As one CEO put it:

“We believe in the American system of free enterprise and consider these demands to be anti-competitive and fundamentally inappropriate. We cannot in good conscience go down that road and maintain our integrity as a good corporate citizen. We think it's wrong. So we are unwilling to accept the "everyone is doing it" argument and become part of the problem.”

The hand-outs lead cities to divert investment from infrastructure and instead just pay-off businesses to locate there. Rather than allowing cities to focus on providing public works and allowing businesses to focus on creating real value, they both join in a slow race to the bottom.

Yes, Round Rock must compete for business on a nationwide stage. But we must compete with beautiful parks, good roads and fantastic schools - the things that government is supposed to do. Not with naked hand-outs to big business.

I applaud the work of the Chamber of Commerce and the various private programs for attracting and accelerating business growth in Round Rock. The city government has done a great job - and has done so without economic development sales tax revenue going to hand-outs. I applaud the work of the City Council in building a business friendly city and environment. But now the city government is just getting too friendly.

The right wing decry the ever growing tax burden on citizens and rail against central economic planning. The left wing moan about tax abatement injustice and corporate welfare. The vast majority will stay home on Tuesday.

The local Tea Partiers and the local Occupiers will remain oblivious, the business interests will pay for eight by four plastic signs, a tiny fraction of taxpayers will vote, and city leaders, hand-in-hand with private business, will make sure that the City of Round Rock stays competitive in that nationwide race to the bottom.