A local panel is recommending that Travis County officials forego an election, and instead just unilaterally issue debt and raise taxes to build a new courthouse. Why? They want to “bypass” the “risk” of not getting approval from those pesky taxpayers. This is an increasingly common trend.
The Austin American-Statesman is reporting today that a Travis County panel – appointed by the county commissioners – wants officials to push forward with building a $340 million courthouse facility without asking for voter approval. Their plan would include a “public-private partnership” in which a private, unnamed investor would allegedly pick up 40% of the costs.
The “shut up and foot the bill” plan would appear to have support from the county’s left-leaning Democrat judges. According to news reports:
Last year, state District Judge John Dietz — an advocate among judges for a new courthouse — urged county leaders not to take bonds to an election, saying that getting voter approval might be difficult.
If the anti-taxpayer panel has its way, taxpayers would see their property taxes rise $70 a year.
This is becoming an increasingly common trend among taxing entities, to pass special bonds that don’t require voter approval, while still raising taxes. The legislature needs to be a halt to this end-run around what few protections already exist for Texas’ property owners.
Not every judge in Travis County is on the bandwagon. Judge Craig Bennett says he is concerned that “a decision being made without allowing the citizens of the county to weigh in on whether or not it’s how they want to have tax dollars be spent.”
For as Democratic as Travis County politics are, it is unsurprising to find elected judges holding taxpayers in such contempt that they advocate subverting the democratic process so that they can hike taxes and buy themselves a fancy new courthouse.