The Houston Chronicle reports that the Commissioners’ Court has approved a bond issue, to be placed on the November ballot, to convert the Astrodome into a convention center and exhibition hall. As some may recall, the Commissioners tentatively hammered out this plan back in June. The price tag on this, $217 Million, will be placed before voters concurring with the Municipal and Constitutional amendment election. From the (extremely short) Chronicle piece by Kiah Collier:
“A $217 million bond authorization that would pay to turn the iconic Astrodome into a convention and exhibit hall is officially headed to Harris County voters.
Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday ordered a November bond election for the renovation, and also approved $8 million for asbestos abatement, selective demolition and other work county staff says needs to be done on the vacant stadium whether it is revamped or torn down.
That includes allowing the county purchasing agent to inventory and sell Dome-related “sports memorabilia,” including signs.
If the referendum passes and the county chooses to issue the entire bond amount, county budget staff have said it would increase the average property tax bill by $8 a year.
That’s for a home valued at $200,000, minus a $40,000 homestead exemption.”
I have a few things to say about this. First, for all of these property tax messes, the true devil is always in the details. From what I recall about property tax messes, just because the $200k house gets a $8 hike doesn’t necessarily mean the $500k house gets only a $20k hike. But that is a somewhat complicated issue I’ll get to a little bit later.
The biggest issue I thought of immediately was how this would affect the Constitutional Amendment election coinciding with the Municipal elections this November. Although there are close to a dozen actual ballot measure, far and away the most important is the “Water measure,” asking voters to earmark very large sums of money ($2B) to guarantee the continued water security of the State. In fact, it is such a large sum of money that the powers-to-be in this State specifically moved the Transportation funding referendum to 2014 because they were afraid of the two referendums coinciding.
All of that has now been lost with the Astrodome measure on the November ballot. Now, I suppose there is something to be said about its County vs State money, so voters would not feel so guilty spending all the money. However, it rarely works as clear as that to the average voter.
Further, if this were simply a General Election, a divergent voting pattern out of Harris County would not be all that bad. However, in odd-year elections like this Houston stands alone as the only large municipality with concurrent elections. Accordingly, the may doom the Astrodome deal, Water deal or both.