BELTON — Bell County introduced plans to problem as much as $138 million in new bonds to fund a sequence of tasks, together with jail growth.
The Commissioners Court docket unanimously permitted the publication of its intention to problem the certificates of obligation bonds. A lot of the bond cash, which can have a cap of $138,015,000, is ready for use for an growth to the county’s jail, which is often at most capability.
Commissioners will vote on whether or not to problem the bonds on Could 24.
County officers mentioned the bonds — which the county plans to pay again over 20 years — can even fund tasks on the county museum, sheriff’s workplace and county annexes.
County Decide David Blackburn mentioned the necessity for these new services is brought on by the quantity of progress the county has seen over greater than a decade.
“This progress in our inhabitants, whereas having quite a few advantages, additionally comes with progress within the jail inhabitants and this progress comes with elevated prices,” Blackburn mentioned. “Development requires extra streets and roads to take care of, extra parks to take care of, extra law enforcement officials, extra firefighters and extra jail capability. They’re all elevated prices.”
Blackburn mentioned when the county final expanded the jail in 2008, the county’s inhabitants was 280,602 residents.
In 2019, Blackburn mentioned, the U.S. Census confirmed the county having a inhabitants of 362,924 however he estimated it has since grown to just about 400,000. That is a few 30 p.c improve within the inhabitants within the county for the reason that final growth.
Whereas he is aware of the bond is dear, Blackburn mentioned that the present answer of sending inmates to different counties was additionally costly as nicely — estimated to price the county $2 million by September.
“There are not any good, simple or cheap options to addressing the issue of overcapacity within the jail — there simply isn’t,” Blackburn mentioned. “However the time has come, in my thoughts, to face the difficulty and develop the jail.”
Whereas the county is taking up new debt, commissioners mentioned this won’t imply extra taxes for residents.
Blackburn mentioned the county plans to have taxes at, or beneath, the no new income charge — the tax charge at which residents wouldn’t see a rise on their property tax invoice — for the upcoming finances 12 months.
Growing revenues from gross sales taxes within the county, in addition to from property taxes by the expansion the county is seeing, will likely be a few of the methods the county will offset an elevated debt invoice.
Commissioner Invoice Schumann mentioned the flexibility for the county to borrow this cash with out growing tax charges has been within the works for a very long time.
“This has been an extended course of than simply the previous few months,” Schumann mentioned. “For the county to be within the monetary place proper now to have the ability to make this sort of funding locally and nonetheless be capable to realistically say that we’re going to do that and work throughout the no new income tax charge has taken years. Not less than eight years that I do know of.”
Commissioner Bobby Whitson mentioned regardless that he hates having the county borrow cash, he is aware of the tasks are wanted.
Whitson, president of Better Central Texas Federal Credit score Union in Killeen, mentioned he might need made a residing serving to folks incur debt however he has seen or not it’s abused too typically.
With the presently low rates of interest, Whitson mentioned, now could be one of the best time to get the bonds. He mentioned he would struggle tooth and nail to borrow lower than $138 million to get the work performed.
“As a man who has made my residing in financing and serving to folks to incur debt, I’m very debt adversarial,” Whitson mentioned. “As a lot as I hate to borrow $138 million of the county’s cash, or even when it had been my very own cash, I see this as a crucial evil at this time limit to care for the residents of Bell County and hold them secure.”