San Benito to decide on bond package

SAN BENITO — How much would a proposed bond issue cost taxpayers here?

In the last month, the price tag has ranged from about $10.7 million to $12.5 million.

Tonight, city commissioners may settle on an amount as they consider borrowing money through the sale of certificates of obligation.

“Hopefully, everyone can get on the same page and do what’s best for the city and its citizens, which is ultimately what the commission and any board should focus on,” Commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez stated yesterday.

During their last meeting June 19, commissioners considered borrowing as much as $12.5 million.

Of that total, $8 million would fund sewer plant upgrades while the city would use $2.7 million to replace a main water line and $2 million to repair streets.

A $12.5 million package would force the city to add six cents to its property tax rate of 72 cents per $100 valuation to pay off the debt.

Yesterday, Sanchez stated she supports upgrading six sewer lift stations.

However, her backing of the plan to replace the main water line has been contingent upon the Economic Development Corporation’s help in paying off that project’s debt, she stated.

“My top priority is the $10 million for the lift station and main water line. It is a great plan that has been put together and would greatly benefit our citizens,” Sanchez stated.

However, two weeks ago the EDC’s board voted against helping the city pay off the main-line project’s debt, she stated.

“Since it is infrastructure and covering a commercial area, the EDC can support the upgrade, which would ultimately mean the citizens do not take on the burden,” Sanchez stated.

“Sadly, without the support of the EDC, I would rather stick to the $8 million for the required lift stations,” she added.

Commissioner Tony Gonzales remained undecided as to whether he would support the proposal.

“I don’t believe in raising the taxes,” Gonzales said. “It’s going to be a big burden.”

Mayor Ben Gomez and Commissioners Rene Villafranco and Rick Guerra did not respond to requests for comment.

Commissioners have apparently little choice in borrowing $8 million to upgrade the six sewer lift stations.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has given the city until March 2023 to refurbish the lift stations or face hefty fines stemming from nine sewage spills totaling 49,000 gallons in 2009 and 2010.

Meanwhile, $2.7 million would fund the replacement of the water main that sprung a leak a few years ago.

The leaking main line runs along Business 77 from FM 510 to nearly San Benito’s northern city-limit line.

During the June 19 meeting, commissioners apparently proposed adding $2 million to repair streets, which residents have called the city’s biggest problem.

Currently, the city’s long-term debt stands at about $30 million to be paid through 2032.