Two weeks after finishing the preferential primary runoff, Austin voters will be asked to return to the polling station for a special election related to city streets.
On June 26, they will consider approving a 1-percent city sales tax to fund a bond issue that would pay for repaving and upgrading most of the Austin’s streets.
The polling station will be at the Cabot School District Curriculum Center, 1348 W. Main St., Austin. Early voting will be June 16 – 22. If approved by voters, the tax would begin Jan. 1, 2013.
On Friday, Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain took a break from visiting homes to promote the tax to speak about how the issue came about.
“I’ve knocked on more than a hundred doors so far today. The places where no one is home I leave a copy of this letter,” Chamberlain said, holding up one from a sheaf.
The letter explains the reasons for the sales tax, and the bond for which the revenue would be used to pay.
“The current growth in our city has made it imperative that we repair and upgrade our road infrastructure,” the letter states. Currently, the turnback revenue the city receives allows only for patching, Chamberlain said.
“If this sales tax does not pass we will not be able to do all the repairs that are needed in a timely manner,” the letter warns.
“Most of the people I have talked to have supported [the tax],” Chamberlain said. “But you can never tell until the election is over.”
The letter tells of a Dollar General store coming to Austin, and of early plans for a doughnut shop. It also states the city has been told by the Cabot School District that an increase of 200 in enrollment would be the trigger for building a new school, which is planned for Austin.
Repaving the roads has become a necessity, Chamberlain said.
“We have patched and patched and patched some more,” she said. “It is like pouring money in a sinkhole and the roads are still pretty pathetic,” she said. “West Main Street is like a washboard. … “It used to be that we could pay a company $50,000 and then make payments on the rest for repaving. But nobody does that anymore; now, it is all upfront payment. But we do not have that kind of money.”
That was when the city turned to a bonding company to see about a bond issue.
“We went through everything anybody else does to get a loan,” she said. “Then the [bond] company said they could get us the money we needed, but we needed to have a 1-cent sales tax dedicated to the bond. Otherwise, they said the city did not have enough revenue.”
If approved, then the sales tax can be used only for roads, Chamberlain said. Plans are to widen Old Austin Road to 22 feet from its current 19-feet width.
There is sufficient right-of-way to widen the road without obtaining space from property owners, she said.
West Main Street to the city limit will be repaired, as will Oak Ridge, Memory Lane and many others, Chamberlain said. Roads in subdivisions less than a year old are the responsibility of the developers.
Chamberlain said the bond would be paid in about 30 years. After that, the tax could be used for general purposes.