County, school districts hope voters in a spending mood
Compiled by Joe Southern
Voters in Fort Bend County will be deciding a number of local bonds and state constitutional amendments when the go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The county has a $218.5 million transportation bond and three school districts – Lamar Consolidated, Katy, and Stafford – have bond projects on the ballot. In addition, the state has seven propositions on the ballot.
Early voting concludes Friday and polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Below is a look at what voters will be deciding:
Fort Bend County
County commissioners developed a list of 63 projects from all four precincts identified as critical for providing thoroughfare capacity for the county. Partnerships established for many of the projects include city, state, federal and private dollars. The partnerships allow the $218.5 million bond to provide $388.9 million in total projects without requiring an increase in the county tax rate.
Citizens are encouraged to visit www.fortbendcountytx.gov/engineering to review the list of projects including descriptions and an interactive map.
The ballot question reads: Proposition A “The issuance of Fort Bend County general obligation bonds for roads and bridges in the amount of $218,580,000 and the levy of taxes, in payment of the bonds.”
Lamar Consolidated ISD
The proposed bond totals $445.45 million and includes $316.7 million for new schools and land, $34.3 million for technology, $29.1 million for interior improvements, $24.4 million for athletics, $18.3 million for fine arts, $11.4 million for exterior improvements, $7.9 million for transportation and $3.3 million for food service upgrades. The bond would fun a new high school, junior high school and three new elementary schools.
According to the district, the average home in Lamar CISD, with a taxable value of $231,000, would potentially see an estimated tax increase of approximately $8.18 a month or $98 a year after all bonds have been issued. However, senior citizens whose property taxes are frozen would not be impacted.
The ballot question reads: Proposition A “The issuance of $445,451,000 of bonds for the construction, acquisition, and equipment of school buildings, the purchase of sites for school buildings, and the purchase of school buses, and the levying of the tax in payment thereof.”
Residents in Stafford will be voting on a proposed $62 million bond that would fund a new STEM Magnet School, a new middle school, a new administration building, several renovation projects and the purchase of buses, technology and safety/security needs. The district estimates that taxes would go up $8.76 per month for homeowners per taxable value of $100,000.
The ballot question reads: Proposition A “The issuance of $62,000,000 bonds by the City of Stafford, Texas, for and on behalf of the Stafford Municipal School District for the construction, acquisition and equipment of school buildings in the district, including the repair, renovation and expansion of school buildings in the district and the purchase of technology, the purchase of necessary sites for school buildings and the purchase of new school buses and the levying of an ad valorem tax in payment thereof.”
The Katy ISD Board of Trustees called for a bond election for the 239-project bond package presented by a community-led committee in July. The total bond package is $609.2 million and would have no impact on the school tax rate.
The Community Bond Advisory Committee’s package focuses on meeting existing and near-term needs as the district continues to grow by 2,800 student annually and older campuses show signs of aging. It’s a growth bond that directly affects students, with 74 percent of the bond allocated for new schools.
The ballot question reads: Proposition A “The issuance of $609,200,000 school building bonds for the construction, acquisition and equipment of school buildings in the district (including the rehabilitation, renovation, expansion and improvement thereof), the purchase of the necessary sites for school buildings, and the purchase of new school buses and levying of the tax in payment thereof.”
State of Texas
The Texas Legislature placed seven propositions on the ballot to amend the state constitution. Below are the propositions are summaries provided by state Rep. Ron Reynolds:
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.”
Summary: Texas provides numerous property tax breaks for veterans and their spouses. Prop 1 tweaks an existing exemption regarding disabled veterans and homes donated to them by a charity. Current law allows a disabled veteran to claim a partial property tax exemption for a home donated by a charity “at no cost.” The change in Prop 1 would expand that to include any home donated by a charity “for less than the market value of the residence homestead.”
“The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.”
Summary: Prop 2 is a detailed constitutional amendment that updates 20-year old laws regarding home equity loans. If passed, the following changes would go into effect: 1. Borrowers benefit from a lower cap on fees charged for a home equity loan, but certain fees would no longer apply; 2. Agricultural homesteads can qualify for home equity loans; 3. The list of approved home equity loan lenders would be increased; 4. A home equity loan may be refinanced as a non-home equity loan, if certain conditions are met; and 5. Restrictions on making debits or advances on a home equity line of credit are repealed, if the principal amount outstanding of the loan exceeds 50 percent of the fair market value of the home.
“The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate after the expiration of the person’s term of office.”
Summary: Currently, state appointed officials continue to perform the duties of the office until their successor takes office, even if that is after the original appointee’s term expires. Prop 3 creates a hard cut-off for an appointee that is leaving his/her position, set at the first day of the next regular session of the legislature.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.”
Summary: Prop 4 changes the state’s separation of powers laws by requiring a court to notify the attorney general if a party challenges the constitutionality of a new state law. The proposition would also establish that once notice is provided, the court could not find the law unconstitutional for up to 45 days.
“The constitutional amendment on professional sports team charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles.”
Summary: Current law allows a charity of an existing professional sports team to conduct a charitable raffle at games hosted at the home venue of the team. Prop 5 would allow newly formed teams to conduct those raffles, and expands the definition of “professional sports team” to include minor league teams and anyone hosting a motorsports racing team or professional golf association event.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”
Summary: Prop 6 creates property tax relief for the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty, so long as the spouse has not remarried. The spouse’s exemption may be extended to a subsequently qualified home in an amount equal to the exemption of the former home, if the spouse has not remarried.
“The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.”
Summary: This proposition clarifies current constitutional laws about lotteries and gift enterprises, which includes most forms of gambling. Prop 7 specifies that Texas law does not prohibit the Legislature from authorizing credit unions and other financial institutions to promote savings by awarding prizes to one or more of the credit union’s or financial institution’s depositors selected by lottery.