Extraco Events Center

Two new voter-approved taxes to support an overhaul of the Extraco Events Center grounds will start being collected this summer.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

Since a countywide tax surcharge on hotel stays and car rentals passed with 67.4 percent of Saturday’s vote, county commissioners are looking at how to issue $34 million in bonds in response, while handling another $30 million in bonds for already-planned projects.

There were 2,856 people who voted Saturday in favor of creating a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals, while 32.6 percent of voters opposed the taxes.

Proponents expect the venue tax to generate $34.4 million for an overhaul of 60 acres off Bosque Boulevard that includes the county-owned Extraco Events Center, Waco ISD’s Paul Tyson Field and the city of Waco’s Lake Air Little League facilities, among other publicly owned properties.

Ahead of the new tax revenue coming in, the three entities want to move forward with expansion plans after the county issues certificates of obligation to be paid back through the new tax.

County Judge Scott Felton said commissioners are due for a discussion on how it will issue all the bonds in the coming years and in what order the planned work should be completed.

Unrelated to the new tax, commissioners issued the first of three expected $10 million bonds late last year as part of a plan to address three street projects on Speegleville Road, Surrey Ridge Lane and Chapel Road. Those three bonds also will cover expenses for correcting Americans With Disabilities Act violations at county facilities.

Felton said the county aims to issue bonds at $10 million or less a year so they remain tax-free.

The county also is expecting it will need to spend $1 million on roof issues at its facilities, Felton said.

Americans With Disabilities Act violations must be complete next year, Felton said.

2015 ADA citations

The U.S. Department of Justice cited the county for violations, and the entities signed off on a 145-page settlement in November 2015. The agreement lists more than 350 violations, with various deadlines ranging up to 30 months from the deal being finalized.

“We’re going to get a report from Walker Partners on when funds need to be available to do the three road projects and figure out that timing,” Felton said. “At the same time, we’ll hire a project consultant to work with the three entities to decide the priorities of construction, how much money goes in there, so when we would start, where we’d start and those things.”

Depending on plans for the work around the events center, bonds for that project also could be divided into $10 million increments, he said.

In August, commissioners learned the county scored an Aa1 bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, demonstrating a strong ability to meet financial commitments.

Countywide turnout in the joint general election Saturday was 4,292 voters, just 3.3 percent of the 130,830 voters registered in the county.

The proposal for the fairgrounds renovation includes adding a new $14 million, 800-square-foot multipurpose center connected to the existing coliseum, and adding another 300 horse and livestock stalls, for more than 1,000 total.

Proponents frequently cited a Baylor University study that states the fairgrounds have a $47 million economic impact on the area, which could jump to $60 million with the overhaul at full build-out.

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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