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Leaders address burgeoning Lake Travis communities
Thursday, January 24, 2013 | | 1
- PHOTO BY RACHEL RICE Francis Curry, chief financial officer of Lakeway Regional Medical Center, tells the crowd at the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce economic forecast luncheon Jan. 16 that most of the hospital is now up and running, with 80 percent of its 400-person staff employed locally.
Positive observations about the direction of the Lake Travis area’s economy punctuated the 2013 semi-annual Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce economic forecast luncheon Jan. 16 at Lakeway Resort and Spa.
Steve Jones, Lakeway city manager, expressed concern that if Lake Travis’ lake levels decreased any further, the area “could be headed to an emergency situation.”
“The city has been working with a coalition of groups to try to keep more water in the lake and to curtail release of water,” Jones said. “So far, we’ve been successful at that.”
He added that total tax revenue for the area was $208 million annually.
“Property taxes exceed $158 million annually,” he said. “Sales tax generated by businesses on the lake is greater than $45 million.”
Jones explained that the lake garnered tourism and several thousand jobs for residents. When the lake levels suffer, Jones said, the economy suffers.
“The study of the economic impact of Lake Travis showed that an increase or decrease in lake level can influence related spending by 14 [percent] to 20 percent, resulting in losses of over 241 jobs, over $6 million in wages and over $12 million in value,” he said. “We are working with the [Lower Colorado River Authority] to get them to understand and appreciate the economics.”
Bee Cave Mayor Pro Tem Jack McCool focused on the growing residential areas of Bee Cave.
“Our population estimates for the 2010 census are 3,925,” he said. “Now, we’re estimating being a little over 5,000. We’re fairly small, confined by a lot of preserved land around the city. Within the city limits there are 1,291 single family homes, 847 apartments around the city and 832 single family homes in the [extraterritorial jurisdiction].”
McCool said developers are building and planning many homes and apartments in the ETJ and the city limits. He also was positive about Bee Cave’s sales tax.
“Our sales tax, just like Lakeway’s, continued rise steadily, pretty close to $7 million this year,” he said.
Lake Travis school district
Brad Lancaster, Lake Travis school district superintendent, said the school district’s four major construction projects were coming along smoothly. He then made note of the district’s impressive growth.
“Over the past five years, we’ve grown 35 percent; that’s about 450 students a year,” Lancaster said. “Our demographer predicted 480 students this time next year, and we expect the growth continue without abating.”
The superintendent then addressed attendance rezoning, which he anticipates to be a contentious issue this year as Lake Travis plans for its sixth elementary school in West Cypress Hills.
“You can rest assured that no matter what school your child is assigned to it’s an outstanding school,” he said.
The district will create a committee to come up with several rezoning options to turn the five elementary school zones into six.
“We want all the parents that are affected by this to be a part of this,” Lancaster said.
He also used the opportunity to speak out against state Senate Education Committee chairman Dan Patrick’s bill that he’s calling a “business credit scholarship.”
“I am confident that this is something we believe will be harmful to public education, not helpful,” he said. “It sounds good, giving parents a choice, but we’ve lost nearly $10 million from state cuts and this bill would further reduce money from the state.”
Lakeway Regional Medical Center
Francis Curry, chief financial officer of Lakeway Regional Medical Center, said that Lakeway Medical is “one of the best hospitals I’ve had the privilege to work on.”
The medical center is up and running, Curry continued, with six operating rooms, two cesarean section rooms and 22 critical care beds.
“Patient satisfaction is something we monitor on a weekly basis so we make sure, for who are visiting, we’re addressing their needs,” he said, “and we’re not afraid to [say] that sometimes we have issues.”
The center employs 400 people, 80 percent of whom live locally, Curry stated.
Emily Moreland, Moreland Properties real estate broker, said that the real estate market in the Lake Travis area was one of the best it had ever had, though there were some problem areas.
“We had very few waterfront sales in 2012, and that’s understandable,” Moreland said. “It’s very hard to visualize if you haven’t lived here that the lake will be back someday.”
She credited the school district’s stellar reputation and good builders with this year’s real estate success.
“In our MLS, we’ve registered over 200 brand new homes sold in 2012,” Moreland said, “and that doesn’t reflect homes that were built as customs that never went through the MLS system. It’s made up for decrease in resort-style waterfront mansions.”
Moreland was optimistic about development along Texas 71 and the improvement of RM 620.
Gerald Daugherty, new Travis County Precinct 3 commissioner, said work on Texas 71 was close to completion, and that he was working with the Texas Department of Transportation and Lakeway to see how RM 620 could be improved.
“There are no silver bullets about [RM] 620,” Daugherty said. “There’s no way in six months you’ll think, ‘Thank God that guy is in office because 620 is just a piece of cake.’ What we can do is work diligently on key intersections and timing of lights, as well as work on some double left hand turn lanes at intersections.”
Daugherty bemoaned the lack of available resources for the growing number of children in the area to play sports.
“[Lake Travis Youth Association is] turning children away and is trying to figure out how to accommodate the needs for these children,” he said. “It’s time for the county to get into the game, not just with helping fund the real estate part of a youth sports complex but also with the infrastructure cost. That probably will necessitate a bond, and I will come to you all and ask you support that, just like you support schools.”
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