The Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to amend its economic development incentives—or, colloquially, property tax breaks—policy to include community input requirements.
The amendment "really came out of the whole Tesla negotiations," Commissioner Brigid Shea said on Tuesday, referring to the county's decision to enter into an economic incentive agreement with the electric car manufacturer earlier this year.
Union representatives and others criticized the county for what they said was an opaque process that left little time for residents to voice their concerns.
Those same advocates applauded the decision, but some also pointed out that the commissioners were scheduled to discuss whether to accept an application for another possible economic incentive agreement—referred to only as "Project Silicon Silver"—behind closed doors on the same day.
Jeremy Hendricks, a representative of the Laborers International union, which represents thousands of Texas construction and service workers, urged commissioners to apply the updated policy to Project Silicon Silver.
"I do find it troubling that you have (an item) on the agenda … to take action on another seemingly secretive deal," he said on a call into the court. "We believe this process must have input from the community."
Travis County spokesperson Hector Nieto would not say which company had applied for an incentives deal but confirmed that the policy change would apply to any agreement considered moving forward.
The new policy, which mostly mirrors the city of Austin's, requires the Commissioners Court to post draft agreements publicly and host two public hearings, as well as accept written comments, before taking action on any such deals.
Eden Meyers, a member of the local nonprofit Advocates for Social Justice Reform, supported the decision.
"I was just over the moon when Tesla announced that they were coming to Austin," she said during public comment. "That said, Tesla does not have a good reputation as a corporate citizen … and I definitely think when we're talking about spending this kind of money in the county we need the opportunity for the community to have input on that."
This amendment to the economic development agreement comes as the court continues to reconsider its economic development priorities, which have recently shifted away from providing tax breaks to large corporations, such as Tesla and Samsung, in favor of providing assistance to local businesses.
Commissioners voted to "pause" accepting new applications for economic incentive agreements in July 2019 after the Texas Legislature approved a property tax revenue cap, which limits how much property tax revenue local governments can collect.
"We simply cannot afford to give preferential tax treatment to our wealthiest corporate citizens, or prospective wealthy corporate citizens, under a 3.5% revenue cap," former Travis County Judge and current State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt said at the time.
Then in December, the court voted unanimously to adopt a new economic development strategic plan that prioritizes helping local businesses and workers' rights.
Amid the pandemic—and the economic recession it occasioned—the court voted to lift its moratorium in May to consider a special project, which was later revealed to be a proposed Tesla Gigafactory.
The Commissioners Court did not name the company or publicly discuss the proposed agreement until June 24.
Less than three weeks later, commissioners approved a multi-million dollar incentives agreement in exchange for 5,000 new jobs and a minimum wage of $15 an hour, including for construction workers employed by contractors and subcontractors.
We are excited to announce @Tesla has chosen Travis County for its newest Gigafactory site! This will bring an esti… https://t.co/JcylFQVWeA— Travis County TX (@Travis County TX) 1595456684.0
Union representatives were critical of the court's decision and said commissioners could have demanded more from Tesla, which they argued had "a troubled history" with taxpayer subsidies and workplace safety.
The updated policy is intended to allow the public a chance to provide input on proposed deals as well as to ensure commissioners have time to incorporate their feedback in the final version.
"It really is very out of date, very traditional economic development policy and not the progressive policy that you're seeing other jurisdictions move toward—and that Travis County wants to move toward," said Diana Ramirez, the county's director of economic development and strategic development.
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So you want to buy a house?
To anyone trying to get on the "housing ladder," it's been a discouraging couple of years as prices skyrocketed in a market crowded with buyers bidding against each other for just about any available home.
Things may be calming down, with the Austin Board of REALTORS reporting fewer sales and more available homes this summer.
Mortgage rates have more than doubled in the last year, from around 3% to well over 6% on a 30-year fixed rate loan, getting even more of a bump this week after the Federal Reserve raised bank rates on Wednesday.
So how affordable are homes right now? That, of course, depends on what you want and how much you're able or willing to pay, but here are some rough estimates of what a typical buyer would pay to buy a $650,000 home, which would be considered "mid-price" in today's market.
Mortgage banker Chris Holland (NMLS 211033) of Austin's Sente Mortgage ran some numbers for Austonia to illustrate a typical purchase.
Holland says that while the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is often mentioned in the media, the most popular loan that he's seeing now is a 7/1 adjustable rate mortgage, which has a fixed rate for 7 years and then adjusts every year based on market rates, with a limit on how much it can increase each year. The interest is amortized over a 30-year period. Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) offer lower rates than fixed rate loans.
Here are the numbers, which are examples. In practice, exact numbers vary with a buyer's credit rating and overall financial situation, and with the rate, which can move up or down at any time.
- $650,000 home purchase price
- 7/1 ARM at 5.875%
- 5% down payment, equals $32,500
- 95% financed, equals $617,500
- $4,990 payment, including principle and interest (P&I), insurance, and property tax
- Typically, a borrower's debt to income ratio needs to be at or below 45%. So for this mortgage, a borrower, or borrowers, would need income of roughly $11,100/month, or $133,200/year. That number could be higher, depending on the buyer's outstanding credit balances on things like credit cards and car loans.
Holland says he's had a lot of clients approved for loans who were house hunting but have put that on hold, hoping prices come down.
Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
Stay in style and comfort, no matter your camping preference! At Camp Fimfo Waco, there are multiple ways to stay. Red Carpet RV sites come with a concrete pad and patio, full hook-ups, cable hook-up, a charcoal grill, fire ring and fire pit. Back-in or pull-thru options are available, as well as coveted spots tucked along the Bosque River!
Don’t have an RV? Not a problem, Camp Fimfo Waco has cabins too! Book a Riverview Firewheel Cabin if you’re looking for an air-conditioned oasis for the whole family. Complete with a kitchen and private bathroom, this cabin can fit up to 10 people. Elevate your stay by adding on a golf cart or snag a private cabana by the pool for guaranteed shade. With wifi available throughout the park, you can stay connected during your stay!
Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
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