Travis County Voters Reject $287M Civil, Family Courthouse Bond
Travis County voters have decided they do not want to pay for a new Civil and Family Courthouse. The current building is more than 80 years old, and was built at a time when fewer than 100,000 people lived in Travis County. But voters narrowly shot down the bond. Our Stef Manisero shows us why voters had mixed feelings about a new courthouse.
Constructed in 1931, the Travis County Courthouse is, at the very least, outdated.
We've gone from three courtrooms to about 19 courtrooms in that place, and there's just no more room to do anything," said Judge Eric Shepperd.
On Tuesday, Travis County turned to the voters, asking for their approval of a $287.3 million bond to replace the existing courthouse.
"We have well over a million people in this county now, operating on a court house that’s still for 77,000 people, we can’t do that," said Attorney David Courreges, director of the Austin Bar.
According to the state of Texas, Travis County has five fewer courtrooms than needed for its population.
"That is an efficiency that costs thousands of dollars to our taxpayers because they're not getting the justice that you need," said Courreges.
Most are in agreement a new courthouse is needed. But it's the proposed location that has some concerned.
"It's the last unrestricted, un-developed block in downtown Austin," said Ward Tisdale, president of Real Estate Council of Austin.
According to the Real Estate Council of Austin, the area next to Republic Square between San Antonio and Guadalupe Streets is prime real estate
"If a government building goes there, no tax revenue is realized from it. However if it is privately developed, because it's such a valuable piece of property, we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the community," said Tisdale.
Others say downtown is where the courthouse needs to be.
"It's the county government, it’s the seat of government, you put it where everybody is," said Courreges.
And keeping it in the heart of Austin will help keep the local economy ticking.
"Taking the center of commerce and the place where individuals do their business away from that doesn’t make sense," said Courreges.
It turns out Early Voters decided this race.
Voters who turned out on Election Day actually voted to approve the bond.
But there weren't enough of those to overcome all the early voters who turned out against it.