96° F Thursday, July 27, 2017

By Paul Pape

As Bastrop County grows, more facilities are needed to serve all our citizens. Generally,paul pape county matters column we can anticipate our needs and plan for them. Bastrop County maintains a living document, which is reviewed and amended each spring. It’s called the Five Year Capital Improvement Plan.

Several years ago, the commissioner’s court saw that we were going to need a new government services building to house our tax assessor/collection department and development services staff. Let me give you a brief explanation of the reasoning behind choosing these two departments to occupy this new facility.

The tax assessor/collector provides some essential services for our population. Three major duties are: 1) collecting all the property taxes for the county, each municipality, any special districts and each school district throughout the county; 2) issuing license plates to every vehicle registered in the county (2001- 55,299, currently 76,696); and 3) transferring title for each vehicle that is bought in or brought into the county.

It is easy to see that as the population grows, these tasks grow in a linear way. Over the years, Bastrop County has grown tremendously. In 2000, when the county annex on Pecan Street was being designed, there were 57,700 folks in the county. Now there are 78,500.

This new facility will have some features that will make these tasks easier and more efficient. First, there will be twice as many teller windows available so that your wait time will be shorter. Second, there will be a “take a number” system, so that you don’t have to stand in line, and third, there will be drive-through lane just like at your bank, so that you can pay your taxes or get a license plate without getting out of your vehicle. Later, when the volume of traffic justifies it, we can add a second drive-through window or a drop box for quick, easy service. I think you will like and benefit from these new features.

The other department to be housed in this new building is developmental services. This group deals with 911 addresses, flood-plain information, subdivision plats, environmental compliance and driveway and septic system permits. With growth comes higher demand for all of these services. Right now, this department is located in a building on Water Street that the county rents. The savings in monthly rent will go a long way in paying off the bonds we sold a few years ago to build this new building. When you need any of these services, you will have better parking, more room to work and more resources to help you make good decisions about development throughout Bastrop County. Again, this will be good for our citizens and will help facilitate new development, which spreads the tax load and improves our quality of life.

This government services building is to be built on Jackson Street, directly across the street from the central appraisal district building. I think the design will enhance this entrance into the City of Bastrop’s Industrial Park, which is further south on Jackson Street.

All of this is being done to bring better services to the citizens of Bastrop County. We are thankful for the vision of county leaders who proposed this facility four years ago. We look forward to future improvements in our facilities that will allow us to supply the quality of service from your county government that you have a right to expect.

Let me close with this bit of good news. Last month, the court authorized the re-funding of some bonds. This is sort of like refinancing your home, while interest rates are at historical lows. County Auditor Lisa Smith and her staff led us through the process with ease. And here’s the good news. We will be saving about $85,000 a year, each year for the next 10 years, on interest – a total of $850,000 in savings! Now add that to the $60,000 a year we will be saving on rent when we get into our new building and I’d say April was a pretty good month.

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