Few McLennan County residents took advantage Monday of the first day of early voting for an election that features a countywide referendum and multiple city and school district races.

There were 283 people in the county who voted early, out of the county’s 131,119 registered voters, as part of the county’s joint election. Early voting for the May 6 joint general election continues Tuesday through Saturday, and May 1 and May 2.

The majority of residents who voted Monday, 133, cast their votes at First Assembly of God Church off Bosque Boulevard .

“We have a whole lot more voters that need to show up,” County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said. “We still have a little bit of time for them to rush in and few more days, too.”

In the May 2015 election, which included races for three cities and two school districts, 1,215 people voted early.

The countywide referendum aims to raise more than $34.4 million for an overhaul of the 60-acre Extraco Events Center by creating a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals. County leaders project funding from the tax could build a new 800-square-foot multipurpose center connected to the existing coliseum, add 300 new livestock stalls and rebuild Waco ISD’s Paul Tyson Field and the Lake Air Little League facilities. The fairgrounds provides a $47 million economic impact to the area that could jump to $60 million under the proposed changes allotted by the referendum, according to a Baylor University study.

The city of Waco has one contested race on the ballot for those in the West Waco and China Spring area.

District 5 Councilman Jim Holmes faces Deanna Leach for the two-year term seat.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, as well as May 1 and May 2, registered voters can cast their ballot at any of the five early-voting locations:

  • McLennan County elections administration office in the Records Building, 214 N. Fourth St., Suite 300
  • Robinson Community Center, 106 W. Lyndale Drive
  • Waco Multi-Purpose Community Center, 1020 Elm Ave.
  • First Assembly of God Church, 6701 Bosque Blvd.
  • Hewitt Public Safety Facility, 100 Patriot Court

Races for the Bellmead City Council, Lacy Lakeview City Council, Lorena ISD Board of Trustees and Midway ISD Board of Trustees are also included in the county’s joint general election.

  • Bellmead: Incumbent Travis Gibson faces newcomers Linda Ione Robinson and George Melvin Cleveland.
  • Lacy Lakeview: Incumbents Barbara Seitz and Bruce Bundrant face David C. Finch III, Sharon Clark, and David A. Garcia with three at-large seats on the ballot.
  • Lorena ISD: Incumbents David Busch and Mary Timmons face Kristi Rowan Humphreys with two at-large seats on the ballot.
  • Midway ISD: Incumbent Susan Vick faces Eloisa “Ella” Esparza.

Four city councils and two school districts are holding elections independent of McLennan County’s joint general election and have their own early voting times and locations.

  • Beverly Hills: Incumbents Kurt Vance and Lance Leuschner face LucyAnn Sanchez with two council seats on the ballot.
  • McGregor: Tony Ocampo faces A. Roderick Cammon for the Ward 5 at-large seat. Frank Leos did not re-file after serving for 27 years.
  • Valley Mills: Incumbent Ray Bickerstaff faces Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Wittmer for the seat as mayor.
  • Marlin: Two council seats and the mayoral seat are on the ballot. Shirley F. King, Demetrius Beachum and John Keefer look to replace Mayor Elizabeth Nelson, who is stepping down. Susan R. Byrd, Cara Kasner and Nancy J. Duggins look to replace Precinct 1 Councilman Norman D. Erskine. Terence W. McDavid and Michael Magouirk look to replace Precinct 3 Councilwoman Billie Jean Scaggs.
  • Connally Independent School District: Incumbent Kathy Coker faces Trey Copeland for Place 4 on the board.
  • Valley Mills Independent School District: Incumbents Alice West and Jim Blackford face Steven Owens, Ted Jones and Josh Thayer with two at-large seats on the ballot. Voters in the school district will also decide on an $8.4 million bond. The proposed bond is expected to increase the tax rate by 18 cents per $100 of value, according to the district, and constituents at least 65 years old with a homestead exemption will not be impacted unless “significant improvements or additions” are made to the home.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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