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Cedar Park officials discuss potential stormwater drainage program

During a town hall, Cedar Park staff proposed reallocating sales tax revenue to fund a dedicated drainage infrastructure and maintenance program

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For years, some Cedar Park residents have dealt with flooding and inadequate drainage in their neighborhoods, and have been told by the city there wasn’t money for fixing it. Now, city staff may have found a solution, and it wouldn’t raise taxes or incur a fee on residents, said Sam Roberts, assistant city manager.

In a town hall meeting at Riviera Springs Monday Nov. 6, city staff held an information session laying out how a reallocation of a portion of the city’s sales tax revenue could be dedicated to a city stormwater drainage and maintenance program. Doing so would mean no fee or additional tax implications for Cedar Park residents.

The dedicated drainage infrastructure and maintenance program would provide funding for an engineering staff to oversee large infrastructure projects, increase maintenance and see to regulation compliance needs.

Ultimately, the proposal would be contingent upon City Council approval, who would put it to public vote. At the town halls, city staff have been collecting feedback and issuing surveys for attendees to provide input on the proposal. The feedback is planned to be presented to the City Council in December, who will then decide in early 2018 if the proposal will be included on the ballot for the May 2018 election.

“We have looked at a lot of different options for drainage over the years,” Roberts said. “We considered a drainage utility fee, general fund, general obligation bonds, certificates of obligation special taxing districts, and now reallocation of a dedicated sales tax. This is our best shot at addressing the issue.”

Currently, the city’s general fund pays for basic maintenance, such as debris removal, sweeping and cleaning streets in flood events and regulation compliance, such as clean water maintenance.
“The money we have for maintenance doesn’t pay for small and large scale infrastructure projects which are needed to prevent major flooding events without impacting the sales tax rate,” Roberts said.

Funding

The proposal would reallocate one-fourth of the revenue from the economic development sales tax. For every dollar spent in Cedar Park, there’s 8.25 cents in sales tax, with two cents put toward the city. One cent goes to the general fund, and the other is split into community development and economic development. The city’s portion of sales tax revenue normally totals $26 million, said Kent Meredith, Cedar Park’s director of finance.

The drainage program would be funded with a quarter of the half cent portion for economic development.

The economic development fund will still have “ample” revenue for business retention and recruitment efforts the fund currently covers, Meredith said.

“Even though they’re going to lose that one-fourth of a penny, there’s still ample money to finance everything that they need to do,” Meredith said. “If for some reason they want to finance more, we can still use some of the (community development) money to help them.”

The city predicts funding projects such as creek widening, roadway repairs and reconstruction, creek sediment removal and property acquisition to be $38 million. Increased maintenance for debris removal and cleaning would cost $550,000 annually and $125,000 would be used for state and federal environmental regulation compliance.

Some older neighborhoods in Cedar Park, such as Riviera Springs, were built without sidewalks and drainage systems. When it floods, stormwater flows across yards without diversion and often remains and slowly drains after storms, leaving some citizens stuck.

Cook, a resident of the Ranchettes, said she’s pleased the city has come up with a method to address the drainage issue.

“I’ve watched the water rise almost to my house in any big event,” Cook said. “I’ve gone to the city many times with proposals to try and fix the problem, and there’s never been money. I think coming up with the idea to use the sales tax is brilliant. It costs the taxpayers nothing, but we reap lots of benefits.”

The Nov. 6 town hall was the fourth and final meeting, as staff hosted the other three in various Cedar Park neighborhoods throughout October.

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