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One eye on future, one on past

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 December 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1635

The extraterritorial area just outside city and town limits can’t count on the city infrastructure being available for any development. Taylor residents are stressing about that right now.  If the aquifer is going dry, what is the land worth? Where can development go? We’ve seen massive growth in the county outside of city limits. Developers may have been paying for cities — Georgetown comes to mind — to extend water and wastewater lines to many new municipal utility districts, but cities have limited water supplies to provide to non-city residents. 

Supply chain limits, such as for windows, plumbing fixtures and electrical components, also stop building in its tracks. Rental units don’t receive tax exemptions from increased taxation due to rising appraisals as homeowners do such as homestead, over 65 and disability carveouts. The property owners can’t absorb the tax burden but must pass it on to their renters in increased monthly rates.

Lack of affordable housing then impacts businesses that cannot attract needed workers like in construction as we saw in Samsung’s need for a recent three-day recruiting job fair. Restaurants are closing for similar staff shortages. Even with roommates, many can’t afford rent here.

Lack of day care is another hurdle for working families; day care workers are some of the lowest paid and increasing their salaries cannot offset the costs to the families using their services that is already stressing family budgets. There is little offered for kids of shift workers.

And then there’s a huge lack of broadband for many county residents we must address, electrical charging stations for the increasing presence of EVs (oh, the grid load), aggregate mines and road destruction, and the need for more roads.

It's just plain hard to be so attractive with strong schools, dynamic cities and our Central Texas location, but out of reach for many.

The surprises

Climate change will continue its negative assault on the planet. We will remain in an extreme drought phase. Will farmers be able to plant their spring crops? Cattle are being sold in high numbers as feed is too expensive to provide. September brought us continued high temperatures and a record 11 high ozone action days, and October had four more. The February 2021 winter storm’s impact on the electric grid may pale with this coming summer’s cooling needs.

Finally, there’s the economy. Economists are calling for a global mild recession with recovery by mid-year, then a gain in economic strength in a late year rebound. The negative market yields of 2022 were unmatched in the past 50 years. Historically bonds have never posted three years of loss; we’ve already had two years of loss. Then there’s the unpredictable behavior of our federal government and inflation management.

I don’t mean to be the scrooge of 2023. We will all have major challenges and will need to develop some creative solutions.

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