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Bell County jail expansion plan proposed for $138 million

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 7:59 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - Bell County has announced plans to expand their jail in Belton with the help of taxpayers.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn says the county plans to issue up to $138 million in new bonds to help pay for the project as well as others within the county.

He adds that over the last few years, overcrowding has been a major issue and the expansion is long overdue.

“As of this morning, we have 1,070 inmates in the Bell County Jail,” he said.

“990 of those inmates were actually in our jail, but another 80 of those inmates were actually located or housed in three other counties. Since 2008, we’ve had a 23% increase in our population across the county. When you project that forward for the next few years, that’s some substantial numbers. If you look at our jail population numbers, they pretty well track the growth of the general population.”

County officials say they plan to pay back the bonds over a period of 20 years. More importantly, Blackburn wants to assure county residents that while the county would be taking on new debt in the bonds, it will not mean more taxes.

“We’re gonna work very hard to make it within the existing no new revenue tax rate as we go forward,” he said.

“That’s a big issue; we certainly want to build and need to build as much as we can afford to build. However, we’re gonna measure our affordability based on our existing tax rate and existing revenue that we have.”

County commissioners will officially vote on whether to issue the bonds on May 24.

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