Public Transportation

Leander City Council to mull CapMetro exit

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A proposal on Thursday's Leander City Council agenda could lead to the city asking voters to approve an exit from the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority system.

The proposal authorizes Mayor Troy Hill and the city manager to negotiate an agreement for legal services with former Cedar Park city attorney Leonard B. Smith for the purpose of looking into Leander's possible withdrawal from CapMetro, as well as authorizing Hill to execute on that agreement.

Back in 1985, voters in Austin and surrounding cities voted to create CapMetro, a public transportation system offers commuter rail, buses and other transportation services with rail stretching from Leander to downtown Austin.

It is funded by a 1 percent sales tax levied by its service area members. The State of Texas only allows cities to levy up to a 2 percent total combined sales tax.

Leander contributed $5.1 million in 2018.

During the recent council retreat, Hill and Council member Kathryn Pantalion-Parker argued the system wasn’t serving Leander, so the city should leave the system and re-purose the sales tax for economic development or other uses.

According to CapMetro officials, Leander’s withdrawal must be approved by the city’s voters. If it fails, the city cannot put the issue on the ballot for 5 years. If it succeeds, CapMetro will be legally required to immediately cease all busing rail station services in Leander.

Officials said Leander could contract with them for services they would lose but it would hinge on whether the CapMetro Board of Directors would approve it.

If voters approve the measure, Leander would be required to use its sales tax to pay off its outstanding obligations as a CapMetro member, officials said. If Leander had withdrawn in 2018, its obligation would have been $9.8 million – meaning the city would have had to continue paying the sales tax for approximately two years without receiving any service.

Leander can hold an election vote to rejoin CapMetro at any time, although officials said the city’s admittance would depend on CapMetro Board of Directors approval and would likely carry additional financial costs for the city.

In other business, the council is expected to

  • Address several issues at the Leander Public Library: revise and update library policies and procedures, discuss the estimated $20,225 cost of the city staff and policing a June 15 protest against an LGBTQ-supportive event held at the library, review the city’s Citizen Survey of what residents want to see in library programming and consider a proposal to add a representative from the City of Leander Crystal Falls Golf Club and from the library to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
  • discuss the preliminary information about the Fiscal Year 2020 city budget in a workshop and in the council meeting.

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