Harbor Oaks friends and neighbors -
I have attached a piece written by Rockport Country Club resident Jon Heffron that addresses the importance of all three propositions that appear on the ballot of the upcoming election.
Please take the time to study all of the candidates and the issues on the ballot, then cast your vote.
MOST IMPORTANT ARANSAS COUNTY BOND ELECTION IN A GENERATION
Almost every day, the national electorate hears and reads that this year’s Presidential election is the most important in our country’s history. And, in fact, this may well be the case when one considers the candidates’ entirely different visions for our country. Trump, Biden, and their respective campaigns are battling it out and will do so until election day. I suspect there will be a record number of ballots cast by November 3rd.
In our neck of the woods, I believe the County bond election represents our community’s most important electoral decision in a generation, if not longer. Local elected officials come and go over time, but a County Courthouse, road and drainage infrastructure, and a local micro-hospital last for generations. Their importance to any community cannot be overstated. For this reason, along with the draw of the Presidential election, the upcoming bond election will most likely also result a record number of ballots cast.
I write today to provide information about the bond propositions because the only thing worse than an uninformed voter is a misinformed voter.
What’s at stake?
Three propositions will appear on the ballot:
Proposition A – $17,235,000 to supplement $9.95 million of grant funding and insurance proceeds to build a new County Courthouse
Proposition B – $1,295,000 to fund road and drainage improvements
Proposition C – $1,370,000 to match a $10.47 million grant for a micro-hospital
The Downtown Anchor Project does not appear on the ballot, but its successful completion and reality hinges on the passage of Proposition A.
Why Vote in Favor of the Bond Propositions?
State law mandates that every county in Texas have a County Courthouse. As a direct result of Hurricane Harvey, the County must have a new permanent courthouse. Some citizens have suggested that the County should continue to lease space in the retail shopping center where the temporary courthouse is located and/or purchase the center and renovate it. These suggestions were studied, discussed, and rejected by the Commissioners Court as functionally inadequate and not economically feasible when compared to building a new courthouse on County owned land. Some citizens also have suggested that the planned new courthouse is larger than necessary for the County’s current and future needs and that the costs are too high. Again, the Commissioners Court engaged in an extensive and disciplined planning exercise and engaged one of the leading design and planning firms of county courthouses in the State of Texas – PGAL. This firm has substantial expertise and experience in all aspects of government building requirements, planning, design, and construction costs. Like many other citizens in our community, I believe the County should design and build a facility that will meet all County government operational and functional requirements with adequate square footage, capacity, and layout that will accommodate generations to come. As an informed citizen and voter, I prefer to rely on the experts, like PGAL, in these sorts of matters.
The new courthouse is a critical element of the Downtown Anchor Project (DAP). The Downtown Anchor Project will not only include the County’s courthouse, it will also include a new city hall (paid for by the City of Rockport), and a community building and outdoor plaza (paid for with grant money). The Downtown Anchor Project represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a centrally and conveniently located government complex at an all in cost to our community substantially lower than it ever will be considering current historically low interest rates, the utilization of Hurricane Harvey insurance proceeds, and state and federal grant money. The project will be good for the citizens of our community, local government effectiveness, the revitalization of downtown, and local businesses. And, the project will create new jobs, improve the local economy, and enhance property values. Our community should not pass on these opportunities.
We live in a beautiful coastal environment. However, this means that our community has unique and demanding drainage needs, along with many other needs caused by annual weather risks. In addition, County road improvements are a fact of life, unless our community is content with potholes, washouts, road flooding, and other road inadequacies that ultimately result in hazardous driving conditions and increased vehicle repair costs. Some citizens have suggested that the bond amount is very small and will not result in very many road and drainage projects. This suggestion is unfounded. The $1,295,000 of bond money amount will be used to pay the County’s percentage share of available state grant money, which will result in more than $20,000,000 from the state for approved road and drainage projects. Any unused money from the $1,295,000 bond amount will be used to pay down the debt.
The lack of adequate local healthcare facilities to serve our community has been an age old problem. The County has a golden opportunity to leverage a $1,370,000 investment to receive a $12,470,000 micro-hospital because of grant money. However, the $10,470,000 of grant money for the hospital will go away if the County doesn’t come up with its small share of the cost. Some have mistakenly suggested that establishing a micro-hospital in the County will ultimately lead to the County having to provide additional substantial funding for the hospital to operate viably. Again, this suggestion is unfounded. My understanding is that the County is finalizing arrangements with a nationally recognized healthcare corporation to operate and manage the micro-hospital with no requirement of future County funding or risk of loss to the County.
Will the County Tax Rate Increase if the Bond Propositions Pass?
The simple answer is no. The debt tax rate paid by County residents will not increase as a result of approval of the three propositions. Because of historically low interest rates, strong growth in the tax base valuation, refinancing outstanding debt, and other factors, the County is in a position to issue new debt to pay for all of the projects covered by the three propositions and reduce the debt tax rate from 5.2 cents to 4.7 cents.
Further, over the past 4 years (using 2016 as the base year and using the rate recently set for 2020) the total tax rate of the County increased only $.0285 per hundred dollars of valuation or an average of $.0071 per year or 1.75% per year. During this same time period, our community and the County sustained both a natural disaster (Harvey) and a human disaster (COVID-19 pandemic). I believe that the Commissioners have been prudent stewards of County taxpayer dollars and have performed in an exemplary fashion over the past several years.
Where Can Voters Learn More About the Bond Propositions?
There has been complete transparency about every aspect of the Downtown Anchor Project and County Courthouse by all participants working on the matter. The Rockport Pilot has diligently and fully reported on the project from the outset, which started shortly after Harvey. Additional information is available at the County’s website: https://www.aransascounty.org/harvey/downtown-anchor-project/ and https://www.aransascounty.org/harvey/downtown-anchor-project/go-bond-election-facts/. In addition, voters may visit the following website for more information: https://yesaransascounty.com/.
Aransas County is at a cross road with respect to the Downtown Anchor Project. Proposition A (County Courthouse) is critical to the success of the Downtown Anchor Project. The necessity of Propositions B (roads and drainage) and C (micro-hospital) is self-apparent. I have faith and trust in the Commissioners Court on the decisions they have made with respect to the propositions. I urge the citizens of Aransas County to become informed and to VOTE FOR each of the three bond propositions.