Coryell County holds first townhall meeting for May 1 bond election for new jail funding
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Dozens showed up to the Gatesville City Auditorium on Tuesday evening for the first of two townhall meetings to inform Coryell County residents about the upcoming bond election and plans for a future $30,900,000 county jail project.
A second townhall meeting is set for Thursday, April 1, in Copperas Cove, at the Copperas Cove Civic Center at 7 p.m.
The county has called for a May 1 bond election, when voters decide on whether or not to authorize the funding via 20-year general obligation bonds for the new Coryell County Detention Center.
The evening focused on how, if approved, the nearly $31 million will be paid back, the financial impact to property owners, the costs associated with operating a new jail as compared to the cost of the current jail, plus the current costs out-of-county prisoner board.
The bonds would have an estimated interest rate of 2.11 percent, with payments of nearly $2 million over 20 years, beginning in calendar year 2022.
According to the presentation, county taxpayers are looking at an estimated 6.7 cents per $100 added to their county property tax bill.
This translates to an additional $100.50 for a homeowner with a $150,000 home, and an additional $167.50 for the owner of a $250,000 home. The owner of a $300,000 home would see an additional $201 added to their county tax bill.
It was shared that the tax rate would go up again for 2023, by about 3 cents per $100, which would be used to cover the cost of an additional 21 jailers needed to run the facility.
The county gave an estimated jail budget of $4,297,624 to operate the new facility, starting in fiscal year 2023.
Sheriff Scott Williams also gave a presentation about the state of the current county jail, built in 1991, and the capacity and safety issues that exist in the current structure.
He told those present that as of Tuesday, there were 96 prisoners housed in the 92-bed county jail, with an additional 87 housed at other counties with which Coryell County has agreements in place to pay for housing those prisoners. Currently, Coryell County pays anywhere from $48-$84 per day to house its overflow prisoners at other county jails.
Also factored into the county jail’s budget is that overflow cost, which has increased from $700,000 in 2011, to $1,117,500 for the current fiscal year.
As of Feb. 28, the county has spent $362,060 to house its jail prisoners outside the county, and according to Williams, that $1.1175 million is on track to be exceeded. This annual cost doesn’t include the cost of transport, officers’ time, fuel, or liability cost.
This year’s overall jail budget is just under $3.3 million, at $3,296,328.
The new jail would have 250 beds, 10 more than the minimum 240-bed facility as given in a April 2020 facility needs analysis by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
In addition to Coryell County Judge Roger Miller, who presented the cost and repayment aspects of the bond, Vince Vialle with Specialized Public Finance, Jeff Heffelfinger with Southwest Architects, and Eric Cohen with Butler-Cohen Design Build were also present to help answer questions and provide input.
The ballot item will simply be called Proposition A, “The issuance of General Obligation Bonds in the Principle Amount not to Exceed $30,900,000 to Pay for the Construction and Equipping of a New Coryell County Detention Center and for the Costs of Issuance of the Bonds, and the Levy of a Tax in Payment Thereof.”
However, a bond election, if passed by county voters, does not obligate the Commissioners Court to move forward with the construction.
The election date is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, and the early voting period will begin April 19 and end April 27.
Read more about the jail plans, funding, staffing, and the issues faced with the current jail facility, in Friday’s Copperas Cove Leader-Press.