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I-35 corridor mayors band together in regional coalition

Rapid expansion along the Interstate 35 corridor from San Antonio to Georgetown is prompting city leaders to form a coalition they believe can help solve growth-related issues.

Mayors from San Antonio, Austin, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock and Georgetown created the Central Texas Regional Mayors Coalition, a joint initiative that was first announced Oct. 25 at Austin City Hall.

The mayors are hopeful the coalition will help solve issues such as access to water, transportation, property tax reform, flood mitigation and economic development.

Additionally, the mayors plan to convene before the next state legislative session in January 2019 to tackle the increasing amount of property taxes their residents are paying, an issue that is prevalent throughout the cities in the corridor.

“We had a very thoughtful and engaging meeting and we certainly want to work on a nonpartisan coalition going forward,” said San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides. “Productive and respectful dialogue is something we want to have with the next Texas Legislature.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the cities throughout the I-35 corridor have similar interests, and will jointly work with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO)  in regard to infrastructure needs and improvements.

Adler said the coalition will work to address the growing amount of property taxes residents have been paying, which he believes lies in the state’s recapture, or “Robin Hood,” school finance system.

Adler said 72 percent of property tax increases in the Austin area are a result of the state’s recapture system. He added the value of homes in the Austin area has gone up by $2,000 in the past few years.

According to a joint statement, the mayors believe “real property tax relief” can only come from the legislature funding public schools adequately and equitably.

Under Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) school districts in property wealthy areas are required to share part of their tax revenue with other school districts with lower appraised property values.

“We oppose efforts to cap cities’ ability to raise local property taxes lower than current caps,” according to the statement. “The state’s continued failure to address school finance is the true driver of rising property tax bills in our city, and our state leaders should focus their attention on fixing school finance, and not on local communities’ ability to tax themselves to fund safety, infrastructure and public services our residents demand.”

Adler called this the state’s camouflaged “hidden state property tax.” Leaders agreed changes must be made within the legislature.

On flood mitigation efforts, particularly in Hays County, Thomaides said the cities will work together to ensure community preparedness during flooding, which includes open communication with the cities of  Kyle and Buda for relief during natural disasters.

As the next legislative session nears, the coalition will meet to discuss pertinent issues the coalition will address before the Texas Legislature.

The Hays Free Press will cover the regional initiative as the coalition develops in the future.   

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