Bell County approves $138 million in new debt for jail expansion and other projects

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - The issuing of more than $138 million in new debt was approved by Bell County officials this week to fund multiple infrastructure projects.

A majority of this funding is going toward the expansion of the Bell County jail. While $138 million is certainly enough to raise the eyebrows of taxpayers, officials say there’s no need for concern.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a big number and a big project,” said Bell County Judge David Blackburn.

“It’s a project that’s done every generation or so.”

Bell County has spent $2 million in tax money on housing inmates in neighboring counties because of overcrowding at the jail. That’s why Judge Blackburn and others have pushed for expansion.

“We can’t fund these projects because of their size inside of our operating budgets,” he said. "

“As to why in regards to the jail... just this morning, it was reported that we had over 1,100 inmates with a max capacity of around 950 or so.”

The debt will also be used to upgrade the local annexes and sheriff’s office. More importantly, Judge Blackburn says while $138 million sounds like a lot, residents won’t have to worry about more taxes.

“We do have the capacity to issue more debt and pay for that within the current tax rate,” he said.

“The second factor we’re looking at and is equally important is the availability of the American Rescue Plan or the ARP funding.”

He adds that while they still don’t know how much money bell county will receive from the American Rescue Plan, he stresses that taxpayers will not see any increase in the future.

“There are no plans to increase the tax rates for any of these projects.”

More details about how much ARP funding will be used for the project and if the projects could cost less than anticipated will be determined in the next 30-45 days.

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