Tag Archives: Williamson County

City of Coupland Repairs CR 458 Potholes

Photos by Stewart Dale Spencer

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Coupland residents and others who travel on CR 458 are relieved that the large potholes are now fixed. Before Coupland incorporated as a city, Williamson County was responsible for maintaining CR 458. Once Coupland city limits included the road, the county was not responsible. Before incorporation, Coupland residents were left with the understanding that the county would continue to help with maintenance on this road, because the new city would not yet have the resources for road work. However, after incorporation, it turned out that the county would not help.

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As Mayor Jack Piper reported, “We were all disappointed to find out that Williamson County would not ‘take back’ CR 458 unless the City gave them 1000 feet of land on either side of the road. When asked whether we could execute an Inter-local Agreement to do road repair, the response was that anything was possible but not probable. Thus, the City must take the responsibility to repair and maintain City roads and streets as best we can.”

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The Coupland City Council voted to select the bid of $4,750 from Naivar Construction of Taylor to repair the potholes on CR 458. Naivar Construction also repaired the potholes at the intersection of Hoxie and Commerce in downtown Coupland.

The Travis County side of this well-traveled road has its problems but at least it has no significant potholes and is clearly marked. The Williamson County side is very dangerous to drive at night, without even warning signs on two significant curves.

 

James Naivar, owner of Naivar Construction, reported that as he and his crew were working on CR 458 several drivers stopped to tell him how glad they were that these potholes were being repaired. So the first major project and expenditure of our new city has been a welcomed success.

[Publisher’s Note: Susan and Buz Garry would never toot their own horn so I’ll do it for them. They provided the wood and the supplies to create the warning signs. They put them up . . . and then put one up again after a wind storm blew it down. After the repairs were done, they picked them up and are saving them in case they are needed again. They asked for nothing in exchange and didn’t even ask for reimbursement for their costs. This is community spirit in action! Williamson County would do well to emulate their example.]

Williamson County Disaster Summary Outline

November 20, 2013 (Williamson County, TX) – The Williamson County Office of Emergency Management has put together a preliminary disaster summary outline of the damage caused by the Halloween Flood on October 31, 2013.  In total, approximately 19 homes were damaged or affected by the flood.  The total amount of public infrastructure damage is approximately $1.1 million in uninsured losses.

Brushy Creek goes way over it banks, just north of Coupland, on October 31, 2013.

Brushy Creek goes way over it banks, just north of Coupland, on October 31, 2013.

“It is not too late to report your damage or to request assistance,” stated Jarred Thomas, Williamson County emergency management coordinator.  “People can report their damage or make requests for assistance by emailing flood@wilco.org.”

Williamson County Judge Dan A. Gattis signed a disaster declaration on November 6, 2013, for Williamson County.  The declaration was needed due to damage sustained during the flooding event that began on Wednesday, October 30 and continued into Thursday, October 31, 2013.  The disaster declaration was extended by the Commissioners Court on November 12, 2013.

A copy of this order is available on the County’s website at www.wilco.org/oem.

The Voting Machines Have Spoken

The two sales tax issues on the ballot for the City of Coupland passed easily with 81% of 37 Coupland voters approving a 1% sales tax in city limits and 84% approving a ¼% sales tax, earmarked for road maintenance.

It's going to be a while before the city coffer looks like this.

It’s going to be a while before the city coffer looks like this.

 

The Williamson County bond proposals also passed with 64% of about 29,000 Williamson County voters approving the sale of road bonds and 55% approving the sale of park bonds. Keep in mind that the county isn’t obligated to spend the money on the proposed projects. See the related story: Funding Essential Government Functions With Bonds

You can get info on all the elections results, including the state constitutional amendments, here: Election Results

 

 

Funding Essential Government Functions with Bonds? – It’s Your Choice on November 5

I received a flyer in the mail from “Citizens for Better Williamson County Transportation/2013.” If you live in Williamson County, you probably received one also. What grabbed my attention were the big, bold letters: WILL NOT RAISE OUR TAXES!

It’s time for a reality check. The development and maintenance of roads and parks costs money. I think we can all agree on that. Public roads and public parks are most likely going to be paid for with the public’s money. I think we can all agree on that, too. Now where’s that money going to come from? Probably from your taxes, agreed? So how can they say that these projects will not raise our taxes?

Before we go further, let’s look at bonds. A bond is essentially a promissory note that governments issue to buyers in exchange for cash up front . Bonds are sold in auctions. The buyer can expect repayment plus tax free interest according to the terms of the bond agreement. Sweet deal for them, especially considering they get the money for almost nothing from the Federal Reserve (which is not federal at all but a consortium of privately-owned banks). Where does the money come from to repay those bonds plus interest? You got it! The payments come from your taxes. Learn more here: Bonds

It is misleading to say that our taxes will not be raised. The flyer says, “by selling the road bonds incrementally over the next two years and leveraging the debt we have paid off, there will be no increase in the tax rate.”

What they mean by “leveraging the debt we have paid off” is that we will add new debt as we pay off old debt. So, instead of your taxes going down, they remain the same. It’s like constantly adding new charges to a credit card at the same time as you pay it down. You will never get it paid off and way too much of your payment is going to interest. The only people that benefit from interest payments are the big banks (and corporations owned or controlled by big banks) that buy and sell municipal bonds. If the county’s old debt was paid off, then the money that had been going to that debt service could either be returned back to the citizens in the form of reduced taxes (don’t hold your breath) or it could be used to begin building up a fund to pay for future projects. Those projects could be paid for with money that we are not having to pay interest upon. Now there’s a radical concept.

We have a debt-based economy. It doesn’t have to be that way but that, like the Federal Reserve, is a much larger topic. Let’s just stick to the immediate issue. I have a few concerns about the current campaign to put us further into debt to build or improve county infrastructure.

First, the flyer includes the Williamson County logo, such as you may have seen on official press releases from the county, which I have posted on this site. However, the flyer is not from the county but from an advocacy group. Who are these “citizens?” Take a look at who has donated money to the campaign and you will get the idea. Take a look at this Campaign Finance Report. It looks to me as though many of the principal contributors are the kinds of people and companies who might benefit from large construction projects. Many are not even residents of Williamson County. Maybe they really are well-meaning citizens — I’m not saying they aren’t — but it doesn’t smell right to me.

Second, I found this little gem on the Wilco website: 2013 Road and Park Bond Election

“The estimated costs, proposed locations, proposed projects and proposed descriptions listed represent possible uses of such bond proceeds. The actual projects constructed with bond proceeds are subject to change based on future economic, market and other conditions.”

So you think you’re voting for one thing but the county can spend it on something else if it so chooses. I don’t know about you but if I am committing myself to future debt for specific purposes, I want to know it is going to those purposes.

Third, the county is sitting on enough money to significantly reduce the county debit. Prepare for an education about local government finances.

Most people only see the “Popular Annual Financial Report” (PAFR) issued by various governments. The Williamson County PAFR is short (24 pages) and is designed to highlight all the positive news without divulging the details — wherein the Devil is said to reside.

The real information is in the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” (CAFR), which is 194 pages and contains a full disclosure of  government finances. I’m not an accountant but I can read and I know a little bit about how local government functions so I scanned through it. You can too.

Click on the links to see the PAFR and the CAFR for Williamson County for the fiscal year (FY) that ended on September 30, 2012 (the most recent year that has been audited). Here are a few interesting tidbits:

  • The recommended general fund balance is at least 30% of budgeted expenditures but at the end of FY 2012, the county had $73.8 million or 63% of budgeted expenditures for that year, so it’s not hurting for operating cash.
  • The county has investments (stocks, bonds, etc) that are not part of the general fund but which are “unassigned,” meaning they aren’t obligated to any specific purpose. At the end of FY 2012, the county’s total unassigned fund balance was just over $365 million.
  • The county’s long term liabilities (debt) total almost $855 million. That’s awful close to a BILLION dollars of debt already.
  • The county is paying interest on that debt in amounts ranging from 3% to 5.75%. That means the county is paying something north of about $36 million each year in interest before even touching the debt principal.

 

So what’s the bottom line (pun intended)? I look around and see county roads in need of maintenance. $36 million dollars would fill a lot of potholes but that money belongs to the big banks. It’s time for government to live like the rest of us. Start paying down the debt, don’t add new debt, maintain and expand roads and parks as best as you can but throw off the yoke of debt servitude as quickly as possible. I’m sure there is a bit of fat that can be trimmed here and there to make county government more lean.

0417_richtaxes_630x420It’s time to wean the government from living on debt. It will cry. That’s part of the weaning process. We may not be able to do anything about Washington D.C.’s addiction to debt (without staging massive acts of civil disobedience, that is) but we can do something about what goes on in our local governments. On November 5, send a clear message: NO MORE DEBT!

Swearing in Ceremony for Stacey Mathews

From the Williamson County Public Information Office:Wilco

WHEN: Thursday, October 10, 1 p.m.

WHAT: Stacey Mathews will be sworn in as the presiding judge of the 277th District Court in Williamson County. Governor Perry appointed Mathews as judge on Monday, October 7. Mathews is an assistant district attorney for the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office and former assistant district attorney for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

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WHERE: 277th District Courtroom

Williamson County Justice Center

405 MLK, Georgetown, TX 78626

WHO: Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, District Judge of the 26th District Court, will perform the ceremony.

QUOTE: “I am honored and humbled to announce that Governor Perry has appointed me as Presiding Judge of the 277th District Court. I am thankful to the Governor for putting his faith in me and bestowing upon me such a great responsibility. I plan to meet that responsibility with the same dedication and purpose I have shown as a prosecutor and former school teacher. Relying upon my experience and the principle that everyone should be treated fairly, I look forward to serving the citizens of Williamson County with honesty and integrity. I will never forget that being a judge is a great public trust, and I will dedicate myself daily to keeping that trust.” – Stacey Mathews

Important Dates For 2013 Voter Election & Voter ID Info

WilcoLast Day to Register to Vote – Monday, October 7, 2013

First Day of Early Voting – Monday, October 21, 2013

Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail (Received, not Postmarked)
Friday, Oct. 25, 2013

Last Day of Early Voting – Friday, November 1, 2013

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Click here for more information:   Elections

Voter ID

Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 25, 2013, Voter ID for the State of Texas is now in effect. For detailed information, please visit the Texas Secretary of State’s website regarding this new law.

Click here for more information:   Photo ID FAQS