The Aransas Community Values Fund Supports Adoption of the Proposed Aransas County Economic Development Policy by the Commissioners Court at the December 13, 2021 Commissioners Court Public Hearing

The ACVF has determined to lend its support to the proposed “Aransas County Economic Development Policy” (EDP) because it is in the best interests of the community and it is consistent with the ACVF Statement of Values.

Click here to view the Economic Development Policy

The EDP would replace the existing policy adopted in 2016. Texas law requires such policies to be reviewed and updated every two years. Thus, a review and update of that policy is well overdue. In addition, the EDP is an integral part of the Long Term Recovery Plan agreed to by all local government entities in August of 2018 and is an important part of the community’s ongoing recovery from the devastation of Harvey.

The EDP was prepared by the County’s legal team and complies in all respects with Texas law.

In a nutshell, the EDP and guidelines are designed to lower unemployment, create new jobs, strengthen local businesses, and increase tax revenues.

Work on the specifics of the proposed policy has been in process for more than a year (starting in December 2020), with broad-based community participation and several public presentations and meetings. The most recent meetings are summarized below.

The proposed EDP was presented at a public meeting of the Aransas County Alliance Local Government Corporation (LGC) on October 1, 2021. At that meeting, the LGC Board of Directors unanimously voted to recommend the EDP and guidelines to the Aransas County Commissioners Court, the Rockport City Council, and the Fulton Town Council. A PowerPoint Presentation presented at that meeting can be found by clicking here and a video of the meeting can be viewed below.

 

 

The proposed EDP was presented to the Commissioners Court at a Special Workshop public meeting held on October 7, 2021. A PowerPoint Presentation shown at that meeting can be found by clicking here and a video of that meeting can be viewed below.

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Finally, the proposed EDP was again presented at a Special Commissioners Court Public Hearing on November 4, 2021. A PowerPoint Presentation shown at that meeting can be found by clicking here and a video of that meeting can be viewed below.

 

 

Most of the participants in the presentations and meetings were in favor of advancing the proposed EDP to final approval. There were some objections to the EDP. Here are a few examples: “the community doesn’t need this” (which is nothing more than an opinion), “we don’t want to be like other cities in Texas” (also an opinion, which flies in the face of the fact that 94% of Texas communities have economic development policies with tax incentives of one type or another, Including Aransas County), “the citizens need tax relief and not tax giveaways” (notwithstanding the fact that the EDP has no “tax giveaways”, every proposed project is measured by an acceptable rate of return to taxpayers, no current tax values are involved, and additional incremental tax revenue must come from each approved project). This PowerPoint presentation addresses in detail most of the objections that have been raised at pages 16 through 32, click here to view.

It has become apparent that Commissioners Rousseau and Laubach have questioned, and most likely oppose, the adoption of the EDP and guidelines. Many of their initial questions appear to be based more on misunderstandings of the EDP and Texas law. The County’s legal staff responded to those questions at the November 4, 2021 Commissioners Court Public Hearing.

Beyond this, Commissioner Laubach asked the question — “why don’t the residents of the County receive a tax abatement?” The simple answer to her question – the EDP and guidelines are designed to do just what she suggests…broaden the tax base so that County residential property owners do not continue to pay a disproportionate percentage of the real estate taxes compared to businesses and ultimately will receive tax relief. It is undisputed that the ratio of property taxes paid in the County is 87% residential vs. 13% non-residential. This compares very unfavorably to the statewide average of 40% residential vs. 60% non-residential.

They also suggested that “the County and government should not be picking winners and losers.” We believe this is nothing more than an eye and ear grabbing catch phrase. After reviewing the EDP and guidelines carefully, it is clear that County government will always be picking the “winners”, and they will always be the residential taxpayers in Aransas County.

The suggestion by both Commissioners Rousseau and Laubach that “super- majorities” should be required of many aspects of the EDP and guidelines must be called out for what it is — a Trojan horse designed to kill adoption of the EDP.

Super-majorities are rarely used in local government decision-making (we are not talking about amending the U.S. Constitution or the U.S. Senate). Why? If super-majorities were routinely required at the local government level few, if any, decisions would ever be made. Worse yet, a super-majority requirement would give a veto pen to the minority over the majority.

Commissioners Rousseau and Laubach suggest that the EDP should be approved in the first instance by a super-majority (4 out of 5 commissioners). Their argument is premised on the following logic: if a super-majority is required to amend or repeal a duly adopted economic development policy during the first two years after approval by a simple majority of commissioners (in strict compliance with state law), then adoption of the EDP in the first instance should be by a super-majority (not required by state law).  This is nothing more than a veiled attempt by a minority (2 of 5 Commissioners) to obstruct and kill the EDP and guidelines.

In our view, Commissioners Rousseau and Laubach want to “change the rules” of the Commissioners Court governance to suit their desired ends. We ask the question — what other established rules will they want to change in the future to suit their desired ends if they disagree?

The proposed Economic Development Policy is in the best interests of the citizens of Aransas County and it is consistent with the ACVF’s Statement of Values. The ACVF supports the EDP and guidelines and urges the Commissioners Court to approve them.

Please contact the County Judge and your Commissioner and let him or her know that you support the Aransas County Economic Development Policy. 

Click on this link for your Commissioner’s contact information: https://www.aransascountytx.gov/commissioners/.

 

Aransas Community Values Fund

12-06-2021