By Betsy Dolan
Leading up to the general election on November 5, the City of Sugar Land will spend the early fall making sure voters understand the $50 million dollar bond measure involving three parks propositions.
Those three measures are:
• Proposition 1–65-acre community park at Chatham Avenue and Easton Avenue, $18.5 million
• Proposition 2–Phase 2 of the Brazos River Park and adjacent festival site, $21.3 million
• Proposition 3–10-mile connecting network of hike and bike trails and bridges, $10.2 million
The bond measure was developed because of a lack of progress and reliable funding for new recreation projects included in the City’s Master Plan. The propositions were crafted by a 100-member citizens bond committee who met from March through May to prioritize the projects and formulate the funding. All of the projects would be implemented in 5-7 years.
The parks projects, if they are approved by voters, would increase the tax rate by a maximum of 5 cents over five years, beginning in 2014. The current tax rate in Sugar Land is 30.89 cents per $100 valuation. According to the city’s web site, the average homeowner’s tax bill would increase by $25 per year over five years.
The Sugar Land City Council passed an ordinance calling for the bond election August 20. A public hearing on August 6 revealed concerns about the vagueness of the bond language but those concerns have been addressed, according to the city.
“We believe we have achieved a good balance without drowning people in words and providing enough information to meet transparency concerns”, said Councilman Steve Porter who also serves on the City’s Finance and Audit committee.
Councilwoman Amy Mitchell wanted to know why the project costs ended up being higher in the actual bond than what the council was first given. Assistant City Manager Karen Daly explained that because some of the projects will not be completed for several years, the project costs needed to reflect increased construction expenses.
Three community organizations have already endorsed the bond referendum: Fort Bend Economic Development Council; Fort Bend Green; and Fort Bend Commercial Realtors.
The City plans to use a variety of methods to make sure voters understand the bond measure including social media, direct mail, the city’s television station and offering a speaker’s bureau for community organizations.
“By law the city cannot advocate for or against any of these bond referendum initiatives,” said Pat Pollicoff, Communications Director. “We can educate not advocate.”
Pollicoff also said the city would be making sure residents are aware that they will need to show a photo ID for the first time in order to vote. The Justice Department is attempting to block Texas’ new voter ID law which was implemented after the Supreme Court in June struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.