Leander City Council calls for May bond election

Leander City Council passed an ordinance Feb. 18 calling for a spring bond election with propositions totaling $70,927,644 in projects.

Bond package projects include improvements to transportation and parks as well as construction of a new senior center on city-owned property. A separate proposition calls for a recreation center, such as a YMCA in Leander. On May 7 voters will decide whether to approve the projects.

The city’s bond task force committee delivered its recommendations to the council after months of prioritizing city projects and finalizing its list on Jan. 26.

On May 7, voters will decide whether to approve the following propositions:

Transportation projects: $22,468,244
Parks and park improvements: $26,274,000
Senior center: $4,185,400
Recreation center: $18,000,000
“This was all done with the anticipation [of] no tax increase,” Mayor Chris Fielder said. “That was one of our council criteria going forward.”

City Manager Kent Cagle said the city plans to pay for the increased debt with “new growth in the tax base.” He cited new homes and businesses in the area and said increasing sales tax will help with the increased debt.

“Of course, all those new homes and businesses mean more calls for service and we will need more police officers and firefighters, as well as other city employees,” Cagle said. “It is a tough balancing act, but we believe we can do it.”

Cagle said the debt will not be issued all at one time, but spread out throughout seven years to help “minimize the impact on the tax rate and give the tax base more opportunity to grow.”

The council’s goal will continue to be reducing the tax rate, he said. However, he said the council may not approve tax cuts as significant as the city’s previous cuts during the last two years.

An extension of Metro Drive from its current location at the Leander Park & Ride Rail Station to Mel Mathis Boulevard is included in the transportation projects, according to bond committee documents. Construction would begin in July and would be complete in September 2017.

Improvements to Raider Way and East Woodview Drive are also included in the proposition. A project would widen both roads and add other improvements, such as curbs, gutters, storm sewers, street lighting, water-quality facilities and sidewalks. Modifications would also be made to the traffic signal at Crystal Falls Parkway and Raider Way.

Parks and park improvements
The master plan build-out for Lakewood Community Park is included in the bond package. If approved by voters, the park would receive amenities such as a playscape, splash pad, skate park, basketball and volleyball courts, and an off-leash dog park, according to committee documents.

Veterans Park would also receive the remaining projects in the master plan, which include a labyrinth garden, a military wall of honor, new benches and landscaping. Since October 2015, more than $35,000 has been raised to construct the park, according to city documents.

Senior center
An 18,500 square-foot senior center would be built on city-owned land adjacent to the public works property on Municipal Drive. The project would also involve a partnership among the city, Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities and a private investor. The existing senior center on Bagdad Road would relocate to the new property.

Recreation center
The YMCA conducted a feasibility study to determine whether a YMCA facility could be viable in Leander. Results were presented at a Jan. 26 bond task force committee and revealed an overwhelming amount of support from residents. Jeff Andresen, CEO of YMCA of Greater Williamson County, said 12.7 percent of households expressed an interest in a Leander YMCA facility, compared with the national average of 4.5 percent.

“Your community expressed a 12.7 percent interest in a YMCA,” Andresen said. “That is off the charts.”

The recreation center could involve a partnership between agencies such as the city of Leander, Austin Community College and Leander ISD. However, no official partnerships have been made yet.

Article Courtesy of Community Impact