Buda aquifer storage bill moves forward in legislature

While Buda officials eye the possible passage of an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) bill, heartburn remains over legislation that could cap the city’s ability to increase its property tax rate. 

On April 18, Texas Solutions Group (TSG), an Austin-based firm lobbying on Buda’s behalf during the 86th Legislative session, updated the Buda City Council on progress of several key pieces of legislation. 

One of those is House Bill 1044, authored by State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), which if approved would allow Buda to inject groundwater into the Edwards Aquifer for future use.

The bill, which Buda officials have championed in recent years, was approved out of the House Natural Resources Committee April 12 and has been placed on the calendar to be possibly voted on by the House. 

Randy Lee, a representative with TSG, said HB 1044 is moving briskly, as is companion Senate Bill 483 authored by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels). Lee estimated the senate version of the ASR bill could be voted out of its committee “post haste.” 

“Unless a B-52 lands on the process, your bill is going to be passed,” Lee said. 

However, TSG representatives, along with Buda city leaders, expressed concern with House and Senate Bill 2, which could require cities to hold a rollback election if property tax rates rise by more than 3.5% from the previous year. Under current rules, rollback elections are triggered when a city’s property tax rate rises by more than 8% in a year’s time.

Lee said the legislature is in “a bit of a standoff” with the two bills, which have several key differences. Those include the house version that “decouples” property tax and school finance reform, while the senate version brings them together. 

Many cities, including Kyle and Buda, worry the proposed tax cap could negatively impact fast-growth regions. Lee said legislators recently removed language that prevented cities that collect less than $15 million in property tax revenue, such as Buda and Kyle, from adhering to the proposed rule changes.

Zwiener said in a statement HB 2 won’t lower property taxes for residents and could “punish” cities in trying to keep taxes low. Lee advocated for Buda officials to contemplate crafting amendments to HB2 that could “carve out” the city and prevent it from being impacted by the bill.

“This legislative session is a rerun of the last term,” said Buda Mayor Pro Tem Wiley Hopkins. “We need to continue to ask (for amendments). The worst thing that happens is they say, ‘no,’ or they don’t respond.”

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