(The Center Square) – Billions of dollars in proposed bonds and sales tax increases are on the ballot in cities and counties in Texas on Nov. 7. Early voting, which began Oct. 23, is underway.
At least seven counties and 16 cities have a minimum of $6.6 billion worth of bonds on the ballot. In addition, cities have proposed sales taxes expected to bring in billions of dollars of additional revenue if approved by voters.
This is in addition to a minimum of 86 public school ISD bond proposals totaling over $17 billion (principal only, excluding interest and previous debt), and billions of new taxes proposed through VATREs (Voter Approved Tax Ratification Election) on the Nov. 7 ballot.
There is no official statewide list of tax hikes on ballots. However, Amy Hedtke, a leader with Texans for Freedom, has compiled several lists to help inform taxpayers.
Texans for Freedom, founded roughly a decade ago to encourage citizens to become involved in public policy issues, is also helping taxpayers oppose bond proposals, having launched an advocacy campaign called, “It’s ok to vote ‘no.’”
Hedtke and others are urging taxpayers to contact their county elections office for a sample ballot to learn what tax hikes, if any, are on it. The bond proposal list published by The Center Square isn’t exhaustive and only represents the principal amount.
The largest county bond in Texas on the ballot is Harris County’s $2.5 billion bond (principal only) to expand the county’s health-care and hospital infrastructure.
Harris County residents will also vote on a $52.9 million Jersey Village bond; a $32.1 million Seabrook city bond; a $1.8 billion Aldine ISD bond; $302 million Clear Creak ISD bond; $85 million Crosby ISD bond; $386.3 million Goose Creek ISD bond; $91,834,037 Huffman ISD bond; $840 million Katy ISD bond and VATRE, and Pearland ISD and Stafford ISD VATREs.
Like Harris County, residents statewide have multiple bond and tax increase propositions on their ballots proposed by city and county governments and ISDs.
In north Texas, Collin County residents will vote on a $683,374,864 county bond. Allen residents will vote on a $156,500,000 bond; Weston residents on a sales tax proposition. They will also vote on billions of dollars worth of Prosper ISD and Wylie ISD bonds.
In neighboring Denton County, Northlake residents will vote on a $45 million bond in the county. Residents living in the city of Denton will vote on a $309.6 million city bond. When existing debt and interest are added, city taxpayers would owe over $1.3 billion.
The city’s ballot language asks voters to approve bonds for five projects, and authorizes the city to “levy a tax sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds.”
When combining existing principal debt of $1.1 billion and aggregate interest owed on it of $435.4 million, Denton taxpayers would owe nearly $1.4 billion after the new bonds are issued, according to the city’s bond proposal voter document.
Residents living in Collin and Denton counties in Prosper ISD will vote on the largest school district bond proposal in the state of $2.8 billion (principal only). When combining the ISD’s existing $1.6 billion in debt and $1.1 billion interest owed on it, taxpayers would owe over $5.4 billion, according to the ISD’s bond proposal voter document.
Collin County residents living in Wylie ISD will vote on a $298.1 million bond proposal. When including the ISD’s principal of the district’s bonds “secured by an unlimited tax levied for debt service purposes” of $409.2 million, and the outstanding interest owed on it of $325.5 million, taxpayers would owe a minimum of over $1 billion.
Denton County residents living in Lewisville ISD will vote on six bond proposals totaling $1.23 billion (principal only). If approved, voters would authorize the Board of Trustees “to levy annual ad valorem taxes, on all taxable property in the District, sufficient, without limit as to rate or amount, to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds and the cost of any credit agreements executed in connection with the bonds,” according to the ISD’s voter document. It also notes the interest rate is subject to change based on several factors.
When including the district’s existing debt principal obligations of $1.01 billion and aggregate interest on it of $261 million, taxpayers would owe over $2.5 billion.
Other city bonds on ballots include Manor’s $166.8 million in Travis County and Georgetown’s $130 million in Williamson County.
Travis County residents will also vote on a $509.5 million county bond, Lago Vista ISD VATRE, Lake Travis ISD $143.1 million bond, and Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD VATREs.
Williamson County residents will also vote on a $884 million county bond and Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD VATREs.
Nearly all proposed bonds, according to voter information documents reviewed by The Center Square, show the proposed bond’s principal is a fraction of what taxpayers would owe when preexisting debt and interest are included.