With a few days left to cast an early ballot in the May 6 joint general election, McLennan County voters are on track this year to surpass 2015 early voting numbers.

Turnout at the county’s five early polling locations totaled 1,151 voters this week. Early turnout totaled 1,215 voters in the May 2015, which featured three city and two school races. There are 131,119 registered voters in McLennan County.

This year’s election features a countywide referendum and several city council and school board races. Residents have Saturday, Monday and Tuesday left to vote early.

Every registered voter in the county has at least one issue on the ballot.

A countywide referendum will create a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals. The tax is projected to raise more than $34.4 million for an overhaul of the 60-acre Extraco Events Center, including a new 800-square-foot multipurpose center connected to the existing coliseum and the rebuilding of Waco ISD’s Paul Tyson Field and the Lake Air Little League facilities.

The fairgrounds have a $47 million economic impact on the area, which could jump to $60 million with the overhaul allowed by the referendum, according to a Baylor University study.

The city of Waco has one contested race on the ballot for District 5 residents in the West Waco and China Spring area.

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

Several cities and school districts partnered with the county to hold a joint election, including the cities of Waco, Bellmead and Lacy Lakeview. Lorena ISD and Midway ISD are also part of the 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.

Registered voters in the joint general election can cast their ballot from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Monday and Tuesday 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

Four city councils and two school districts in the area 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 ISD: Incumbent Kathy Coker faces Trey Copeland for Place 4 on the board.
  • Valley Mills ISD: 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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