Dueling Austin MLS stadium efforts, $816 million bond at city council


AUSTIN (KXAN) — It is a big day for Austin City council as members will decide if bringing a major league soccer team to Austin should move forward and if voters should consider an $816 million bond in November that would raise their taxes.

MLS to Austin?

Thursday there are two proposals on the table for bringing the Columbus Crew to Austin and building a stadium in northwest Austin, as well as other options for that city-owned land.

Council member Leslie Pool has sponsored a resolution that calls for the city manager to solicit development plans for the site known as McKalla Place that does not involve a soccer stadium.
Affordable housing is something many opponents to the soccer stadium are calling for instead.

On the flip side, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo has a resolution calling on the city manager to move into negotiations with Precourt Sports Ventures about building a stadium.

“It is certainly not a final step but it’s a next step that would move the process further and express the council’s interest in exploring that possibility further and to see if the city and Precourt could agree on terms,” Tovo says.

The big question that lies in the middle between these two sides is whether jobs and tourism generated from a stadium outweigh the potential property tax revenue that could be generated over decades from developing the site with housing.

“Right now the site is not generating property tax because it’s vacant, but certainly we need to have an understanding of what those property taxes would amount to so we can keep that in mind,” Tovo says.

City staff will be asked at Thursday’s meeting to come up with those concrete numbers concerning property tax revenue from development vs. revenue generated from a stadium.

Another big bond

Council will also ask for public input concerning a proposed $816 million dollar bond that could wind up on the ballot this November.

 Austin city council has until August to make a decision, but Thursday is its last meeting until then.

This bond proposal comes just two years after voters approved a $720 million dollar mobility bond which raised taxes.

This new bond adds more items to the list: 

  • $161 for Affordable Housing
  • $176 million for Transportation Infrastructure
  • $167 million for Parks and Recreation
  • $184 million for Stormwater and Open Space
  • $74 million for Libraries and Cultural Centers
  • $38 million for Public Safety
  • $16 million for Health and Human Services.

City officials report the $184 million for stormwater and open space would prevent flooding by buying properties that could be at risk. $The 176 million for transportation would specifically repair current sidewalks, roads and bridges. 

The previous mobility bond funded building new infrastructure like sidewalks and improving intersections.

The funding for each item was determined by a task force that spent months gathering public feedback and analyzing studies conducted by the city to determine which projects had critical needs.  

“We considered things like — is there going to be money from the federal government? How else could these projects be funded? Are there ways we can leverage other sources?” says Rachel Stone, Bond Election Advisory Task Force Member. “So in the case of affordable housing we saw a great need that needed to go up from the staff recommendation and in transportation there were projects that could be funded in other ways and we did just pass a mobility bond so we took that down a little bit.”

If this bond were to pass it would raise taxes for the average homeowner (with a property worth $305,000) by about $61 a year.

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