What’s In A Bond? And Why Does It Matter?

Austin City Hall

Been wondering what Austin City Council has been up to lately? They’re on summer break, so we thought now would be the perfect opportunity to catch you up on everything they’ve been working on… That way, you’ll be prepared to give your input and get involved when City Council meetings resume in August.

This week, we’ll be covering the (likely) upcoming bond election. We’ll give you the basics of what you need to know, why it matters, and how to make your voice be heard.

As we’ve told you before, there has been a lot of debate lately about a possible bond election in November to help pay for everything from affordable housing to park improvements. A recommendation from a citizen advisory task force called for an $851 million bond (later revised to a $816 million bond because of a technicality) with $161 million going toward affordable housing. 

Citing Austin’s worsening affordability problems, a group of community activists began pushing for even more money in the housing budget. In the end, they won the day. Austin City Council preliminarily approved a $925 million bond with $250 going toward affordable housing. If voters approve it in November, it will be the city’s largest affordable housing bond ever. 

After City Council’s vote, Council Member Greg Casar tweeted in celebration that, “Together, we can truly confront our housing crisis, our gentrification and segregation. We’ll need your support for this bond come November!”

Here’s how the rest of the money was split up:

  • $250 million for affordable housing
  • $16 million for health and human services
  • $184 million for flood mitigation and open space
  • $128 million for libraries and cultural centers 
  • $149 million for parks and recreation
  • $160 million for transportation infrastructure
  • $38 million for public safety

What this means for you

A bond is essentially just a loan taken out by a local government agency. In taking out the bond, the city has to promise to pay back the money to the lenders, often by taxing its own citizens. That’s why it gets put on the ballot. Come November, it will be up to you to decide if this list of proposed projects is worth the increase in your property tax bill

Although we don’t yet have an official number for what the property tax implications will be for this bond, it will likely increase the property tax bill of an average homeowner (with a $300,000 house) by about $60 a year

Council Member Ellen Troxclair (who voted against the bond proposal) expressed frustration with this property tax increase, writing on her Facebook page that, “People in Austin are being nickel and dimed to death! The best way to help EVERYONE is to lower taxes and fees, to put money in your pocket to spend how you see fit.”

When City Council returns from their summer break in August, they’ll still have to take a final vote to officially put the bond on the ballot. They’ll also have the opportunity to be more specific about which projects the different buckets of money will fund, if the bond gets passed. 

Where you come in – This issue will likely be on the ballot in November, so now is the time to start paying attention so that you can make an informed and education vote. We’ll keep you posted with more information, as well as the pros and cons of the bond as time goes on.

Want more City Council news? Stay tuned because in the next few weeks we’ll be giving you updates about a proposed professional soccer stadium in Austin and our city’s annual budget process.

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