From the Austin Bar:
The Community for Civil and Family Courthouse PAC filed a bi-annual finance report and the numbers were made public yesterday. The PAC, led by Directors Shannon Ratliff, Mike McKetta and Steve McConnico, has raised a total of $134,439.89 since January. Ratliff serves as Treasurer, and runs the PAC along with President Janet McCullar and Secretary Ryan Botkin. The campaign to educate and encourage Travis County voters on November’s $291.6 bond to build a new Civil and Family Courts Complex is well underway. A county-appointed Community Focus Committee is conducting public outreach presentations about the project to numerous community and civic groups and many more are planned for the coming months. To arrange for a presentation, or to learn more, visit www.traviscountytx.gov/cfcc.
Polling firm Tulchin Research conducted an initial voter survey in May and came to the following conclusions:
“Our poll finds the measure is currently backed by a majority of voters (54%) and is well-positioned to pass…Based on a basic description of the bond measure, 54% of voters say they would vote for the measure if the election were held today while 40% indicate they would vote against it. But in a simulated engaged campaign in which respondents hear arguments both in favor of and in opposition to the measure, support grows significantly. After messaging from both sides, voters favor the measure by a 28-point margin, with more than six in ten voters (61%) supporting it to just a third (33%) opposed.”
To see the full poll report, click here.
The Travis County Commissioners and the Community Focus Committee have been working on this project for over ten years. Originally priced at $350 million, the project has been studied, trimmed and refined to $291.6 million – the lowest possible price for a building with the unique security and design needs of a Courts Complex. It has been designed to provide safe, secure and accessible access to justice for the citizens of Travis County, not only today, but for many years into the future. Travis County is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, and the Commissioners are looking ahead and laying the groundwork for a solid infrastructure for its citizens, not only for today, but for many tomorrows to come.
In a regional study of similar courthouse projects across the country, the proposed $447 price per square foot of the Travis County Civil and Family Courts Complex (CCFC) is lower than the $451 price per square foot of other courthouses in our West South Central Region, which includes Austin’s Federal Courthouse and the Tarrant County Courthouse. In addition, it is much lower than the $875 per square foot price of courthouses in the Pacific Region. Other regions of the country range from $353 – $360 per square foot, putting the CFCC project squarely in the average range for similar courthouse projects.
Recent comparisons have been made between the cost of the CFCC and the Federal Courthouse, built in Austin in 2010. There are several differences between these projects that are important to note. The first is the size of the buildings. The Federal Courthouse is a 242,420 sq. foot structure with seven stories, eight courtroom and no parking garage. It sits on a lot half the size of the proposed lot of the new CFCC at 3rd and Guadalupe. The new CFCC will be constructed with 520,000 sq. feet, 14 stories, 33 courtrooms and a four- level underground parking garage. The Federal Courthouse lot was purchased in 2003 and the project was funded with stimulus money during the recession of the early 2000’s. In today’s dollars, it would cost $136,504,000 to build, making the cost per square foot $514. The CFCC is projected to cost $447 per square foot.
The Travis County Commissioners have left no stone unturned in seeking creative funding solutions to offset the cost of the new CFCC. Because of the downtown location, they are able to pursue several cost solutions which will result in a 15 – 20% cost savings to taxpayers:
- Building a second tower on the lot along with the CFCC
- Bringing the second tower up simultaneously with the CCFC to bring construction costs down
- Deriving property tax from the private use of the office tower
- Generating revenue from parking after hours and on weekends
- Selling other Travis County owned central business district properties and moving them back to the private sector
The current Travis County Courthouse is 84 years old. It cannot be expanded, remodeled or renovated any more to accommodate the 200,000 residents that conduct their important legal business there each year. It is overwhelmed and unsafe. The cost to taxpayers to fund the proposed $291.6 million bond is about $42 per year on a $325,000 home – or .0161 cents per hundred dollar value of a home. To put that in terms all Texans can relate to, that is about $3.50, or the cost of one taco, a month.
As every family who needs a new car knows, cheap and affordable are two very different things. Everyone wants to buy a $500 car. But does it have good brakes, seat belts, airbags or even a steering wheel at that price? Probably not. And no one would feel secure putting their kids in it. Travis County’s current courthouse is like an 84 year-old car. It’s been repaired, rebuilt and overhauled as much as possible. No amount of duct tape and bailing wire will make it work again – and every repair is costing the County money that will never be recovered. It’s time for a new car. One that is safe, secure, affordable and accessible to all. The citizens of Travis County, regardless of income, deserve nothing less.