Turn $5 into $10: New Voucher Program Launches to Boost Downtown Waco Business Sales

Press Release – A new voucher program, Biz Bucks, will launch at 8am on Thursday, October 1 as part of the “All in for Downtown Waco” campaign put in place to help support local Waco businesses. The Biz Bucks program aims to boost shopping in historic areas around Waco and was created to help local small businesses who are suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19.

Biz Bucks vouchers can be purchased for $5 each and redeemed for a $10 purchase at participating downtown, uptown, East Waco and La Salle destinations. There will be a total of 3,000 vouchers sold which will be redeemable through November 15.

Community partners including the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, City of Waco, Downtown Public Improvement District, City Center Waco, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Startup Waco are working to promote the initiative through their marketing channels and will be encouraging qualifying businesses to participate in the program.

“The goal of the Biz Bucks voucher program is to provide a way for Wacoans to support local businesses in a meaningful and tangible manner,” said Kris Collins, senior vice president – economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber. “We are honored to partner with other local organizations and help support local businesses that are the heart of our community.” Biz Bucks vouchers can be purchased exclusively online at AllinforDowntownWaco.com.

Purchased vouchers will be mailed or can be picked up from the Greater Waco Chamber, located at 101 S. 3rd St. The cost difference between the $5 voucher and the $10 redemption value will be made up by underwriting partners. Participating businesses will receive reimbursement once collected Biz Bucks vouchers are submitted. Small, locally owned business merchants located in downtown, uptown, East Waco and La Salle areas are invited to participate by visiting AllinforDowntownWaco.com to fill out the application.

“We knew that we wanted to create a program that would provide fast and tangible relief to local merchants that are suffering,” said Collins. “In these rapidly changing times we wanted to develop a way for locals to show support and investment in Waco merchants that benefitted both the merchant and locals. For locals, the ability to purchase a $10 voucher for the price of $5 gives them a cost-savings opportunity. And, for participating businesses the vouchers drive locals into their stores and provide revenues immediately for merchants.”

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to impact local businesses, this Biz Bucks voucher program is hoped to help business owners drive direct local spending to merchants as well as provide a multiplier effect from consumer spending. Increasing local consumer spending is a primary focus of the Biz Bucks voucher program. Not only will it help build a community among Waco locals and Downtown Waco merchants, but will also provide immediate positive effects and build long-term relationships. To guard against fraud, each voucher comes with its own unique serial number and security features. Up to five Biz Bucks vouchers can be redeemed per customer per visit.

“There has never been a better time than now to support Local Businesses and the All in for Downtown program adds even more reasons to visit our Downtown, Uptown, East Waco, and La Salle merchants. Buy your Biz Bucks and you will immediately provide financial support to participating merchants and as a bonus you will get a great discount too,” said Alfred Solano, president/CEO for the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

For questions about Biz Bucks voucher program, visit AllinforDowntownWaco.com or email info@allinfordowntownwaco.com.

Waco Culture Guide shines spotlight on Waco’s cultural wealth

By Cuevas Peacock (First published by the Baylor University Office of External Affairs)

The Waco Culture Guide highlights the districts, affinity groups, businesses, history, and more of Waco’s communities of color. The vastness of Waco’s Cultural Wealth is often missed by those new to the city. This is especially true for the faculty, staff, and students of color who make Waco home during their time at Baylor. With the Waco Culture Guide, we hope to provide a snapshot of the diversity present throughout Waco to the Baylor community and all who view it. By shining light on the opportunities to engage in Waco’s affinity groups geared towards growing leaders of color, we hope to support the pipeline of diverse leadership within our city for generations to come. By listing the churches and restaurants of color, we hope to aid you in your attempt to be both physically and spiritually fed in an inclusive setting. By telling the stories of our city’s cultural landmarks, we hope to connect you to our past pillars, strengthening your foundation for the positive future you will create.

The Cultural Wealth of Waco is strong, thriving, and has been a pleasure to highlight through the Waco Cultural Guide. Compiling the resource was a fun, collaborative process where we collected information about our community from a wide variety of listed individuals and organizations into a shared space for all to experience. Additionally, we reached out to several longtime Wacoans for what we called a tone check, ensuring that the content was both culturally appropriate and as exhaustive as possible. However, it is a process that is incomplete. There are still stories that have gone uncaptured, cultural landmarks that have gone unhighlighted, and people that have gone unrecognized. Through the publication’s release, we are both elated on what we included and reminded of what we missed. Knowing of the many things we failed to capture, we encourage viewers of the culture guide to be intentional in building a connection with Waco’s communities of color to truly experience the city’s culture.

To capture the fullness of Waco’s Cultural Wealth, we must all commit to engaging every part of our city or risk missing the multitude of contributions made by our communities of color, that make Waco great. The Waco Culture Guide is one of many attempts to do this work. We welcome all thoughts and additions to enhance the Waco Culture Guide so that it is more representative of the Cultural Wealth present in our community, and ask that any inquiries be sent to cuevas_peacock@baylor.edu. The Waco Culture Guide can be viewed virtually at baylor.edu/waco/cultureguide, where we also encourage you to explore the page to learn more about the work happening within Baylor’s Solid Gold Neighbor initiative.


Cuevas Peacock is a community builder with dreams of becoming a poet, for he was once told that they are life’s last true teachers. Hailing from Port Arthur Texas, the only place where oil and water mixes, Cuevas serves as the Assistant Director of Community Relations-Cultural Wealth at Baylor University. Through this role he is able to serve and support the university’s Solid Gold Neighbor Initiative which seeks to further the impact of the university in Waco through various community engagement efforts.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Voting by Mail: Everything You Need to Know

By Stephen Carter

With election day on November 3 approaching, the subject of voting by mail due to concerns for COVID-19 has been notable in public discourse. What is required of local voters who want to vote by mail, known as voting by absentee ballot? How is McLennan County ensuring that the vote by mail process this year is accessible and easy to understand? What is the local government doing to ensure that ballots are requested and sent out on time, and are properly returned?

Who is eligible to vote by mail?

Texas is one of five states at this time which has not expanded vote by mail to all voters. Registered voters seeking to vote by mail must have one of the following qualifications: age 65 or older, have a disability, be confined to jail, not be in the county during early voting and on election day.

Texas election code states that “A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health. Expected or likely confinement for childbirth on election day is sufficient cause to entitle a voter to vote.”

However, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that lack of immunity to COVID-19 does not qualify as a disability. The law is otherwise vague on what constitutes a disability, which allows anyone who claims a disability to qualify. Voters with a disability are not required to provide proof of their disability and need only to fully complete the absentee ballot application.

Important Dates

The final day to register to vote is October 5. Voter registration cards can be submitted in person at the county Elections office or mailed but must be postmarked no later than the 5th.

Requests for an absentee ballot must be received by 5:00 pm October 23. The ballot must be returned or postmarked no later than November 3. To ensure that a mailed application is received in time, it should be mailed several business days in advance.

Early voting has been expanded this year, however a lawsuit pending against Texas Governor Greg Abbott could potentially roll back his executive order, which was issued in July. Currently, early voting dates are set for October 13 through October 30, which extends early voting by six days. During this time voters may cast a ballot at any polling location within McLennan County. This executive order also extends the time voters have to hand-deliver their absentee ballot. Typically, voters may only mail in their ballot once early voting begins, however this year it can be delivered in person until the end of election day.

Requesting and Returning a Valid Ballot

An application to request an absentee ballot can be printed from the county website, obtained in person, or a request can be made by calling the McLennan County Elections Office to have them mail out an application. Voters wanting to use a computer to print their application at one of the Waco public libraries will need to schedule their visit in advance due to COVID-19 library guidelines. Additionally, voters can request an application through the Texas Secretary of State’s website which will then be mailed to them.

Once an application is received the Elections office can take up to a week to mail out a ballot, which does not include the time it takes for the postal service to deliver it.

Voters requesting a ballot due to being outside of the county during the election must have their ballots mailed to an address outside of the county.

Active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, their spouse, and dependents, or a citizen residing outside of the United State and claiming McLennan County as their legal residence who are absent from the county during the election may vote by Federal Post Card Application.

The absentee ballot application must be fully completed and signed to be considered valid. This information includes full name, address, date of birth, reason for voting by mail, and checking the box for the November Election.

Both an application and absentee ballot may be mailed through the postal service at the voter’s expense (a stamp and envelope) or can be delivered to the McLennan County Elections Office. It is possible to fax or email an application, however voters are still required to mail or deliver the form and it must be received within four business days to be considered valid.

When delivering an application or absentee ballot to the elections office, voters will be required to come inside the office and present a required form of photo ID. Only the voter may deliver their ballot. No one else is permitted to deliver their ballot for them. An ID is not required if the ballot is mailed to the Elections office. Acceptable forms of photo ID include Texas Driver License, Texas Election Identification Certificate, Texas Personal Identification Card, Texas Handgun License, United States Military Identification Card, United States Citizenship Certificate, or United States Passport.

Will absentee voting be expanded?

A lawsuit has been filed against the state to expand absentee voting eligibility to all voters, however the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the expansion, which centered around the 26th Amendment and age discrimination. This overturned a ruling by a lower federal court in May which expanded absentee voting. The case could be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States, though it may not be until after the election.

Has McLennan County taken any extra steps this year?

McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Wolfe declined to comment regarding what, if any steps the county has taken this year to ensure that absentee voting is accessible and easy to understand; instead directing voters to review the information on the county website. Voters with questions about any part of the process can also call the Elections office at (254) 757-5043.


Stephen Carter is a lifelong resident of the Waco area, a graduate of TSTC, and has been an active participant in service to the community. He works in an administrative role with several non-profits, and owns a local hair & makeup business, Creative Beauty Designs, with his wife Lesley.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Plan to Vote!: Helpful round up of voting rules and tips

By Becca Muncy

Step One: Getting Registered

Election season is fast approaching (Election Day is November 3, 2020), and there’s no better time to get educated on voting in Waco! The first step is registering to vote. In the U.S., you are eligible to register if:

  • You are a United States citizen
  • You are a resident of the county where you submit the application
  • You are not a convicted felon (you may be eligible to vote if you have completed your sentence, probation, and parole)
  • You are at least 17 years and 10 months old, and 18 years old on Election Day
  • You have not been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

In Texas, the deadline for registering to vote is October 5, 2020. In order to register, you must fill out an application, which can be picked up at any city office, post office, city library, or at the county Elections Administrations Office (214 N 4th Street Suite 300). You can also fill out an application online here (in English) or here (in Spanish) and then print the completed application. Once you have filled out the application, mail it to the county Elections Administrator (Kathy E. Van Wolf, P.O. Box 2450, Waco, TX 76703-2450).

If you think you are registered to vote, but aren’t 100% sure, you can check your registration status here.

Double check your registration if you have moved

According to Dr. Peaches Henry with Project V.I.E.R ( Voter Information Education and Registration), sometimes people believe they are registered and discover that they are not when they attempt to vote.  The most common reasons for this misunderstanding is that a person has moved and believes that the postal service will forward her voter registration card when, in fact, the card will be returned to the Elections Office.  Another reason a voter might not be registered is that she might be on suspense (see explanation below).  Any voter concerned that she might not be registered should simply complete a voter registration card and get it to the Elections Office by Monday, October 5, 2020 at 5PM.  The card must be in the office not postmarked by the deadline.

Suspense means that the registrar is not certain of your residential address. If the registrar has reason to believe that a voter’s current residence is different from that indicated on the registration records, then the registrar shall deliver to the voter a written confirmation notice requesting confirmation of the voter’s current residence. When a Notice of Address Confirmation is sent, the voter automatically is put on suspense. As a common practice, a Notice of Address Confirmation is sent (and an individual is placed on suspense) when:

  1. The voter’s registration certificate has been returned as non-deliverable;
  2. A Jury Summons is returned as non-deliverable; or
  3. Any mailing that was sent to the voter was returned as non-deliverable.
  4. The voter registrar has received information indicating the voter no longer resides at the address on the voter’s record.

In-Person Voting on election day

In McLennan County, there are 34 voting centers. Any registered voter in the county can vote at any voting center. You are not required to go to the polling place that is in your precinct. You can vote at any voting center. You can find a list of voting centers here.  

When you arrive at the voting center, you are required by Texas law to show an ID. Acceptable forms of ID are: a Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), a Texas election ID certificate, a Texas personal ID card, a Texas handgun license, a US military ID with photo, or a US citizenship certificate with photograph.

Keep in mind that electronic devices, like cell phones, and any form of electioneering, such as campaign t-shirts, are not allowed in the voting center. You are allowed to bring a paper list of the people for whom you plan to vote.

Early Voting

Early voting in Waco is available to anyone who is registered in McLennan County.  Early voting is available October 13 to October 30. Early voting is available on Saturdays (7 AM – 7 PM) and Sundays (1 PM – 6 PM) during the early voting period. For a list of times and locations, click here. Early voting locations include the Robinson Community Center, the Waco Multi-Purpose Community Center, First Assembly Church of God, the McLennan County Records Building, and Hewitt Public City Hall/Library. Early voters follow the same steps in the voting center as any in-person voter, so be sure to bring your ID with you, and leave your campaign T-shirt at home.

Absentee Voting

Different states have different rules about absentee voting (also known as mail-in voting). The rules in Texas limit absentee voting to a few specified groups.  You can vote absentee if 1) you will be away from your county on Election Day and during the hours that early voting is conducted, 2) you are sick or disabled, 3) you are 65 years of age or older on Election Day, or 4) you are confined in jail.

To vote by mail, you first need to fill out an application for a mail-in ballot. You can fill out and print an application here or you can have an application be sent to you by filling out this request form. The last day to apply for a ballot by mail is October 23. After you apply, you’ll be sent a ballot, which you will fill out and return to your county’s elections office by Election Day.

Staying Safe While Voting In-Person

Due to Texas’s regulations on absentee voting, voting by mail due to concerns over COVID-19 is not an option for everyone; however, there are still many ways you can stay safe while exercising your right to vote.

Jared Goldsmith, Assistant Elections Administrator, wants to assure voters that voting centers are taking numerous precautions. “We are enforcing social distancing rules and encouraging all voters [to] wear a face covering while in the polling place,” says Goldsmith. “We have placed protocols to make the voting process as touchless as possible to help ensure the safety of our voter’s health.” Goldsmith also stresses the importance of voting early, when there is likely to be less of a crowd.

McLennan County is also offers curbside voting for those who are unable to enter a voting center without personal assistance or likelihood of injuring their health, and for those who are showing signs of COVID-19.

Christina Chan-Park, President of the League of Women Voters Waco, encourages voters to plan ahead in order to stay safe. This can mean voting early, or, if you vote in November, finding a voting center you can get in and out of quickly. Chan-Park recommends looking at past election results and figuring out which centers had the fewest voters. She says, “Going to a polling place that is frequented less might be faster. In the 2016 election Waco First Assembly of God on Bosque had over 1,500 people vote there. Waco High School, which is less than… 5 minutes away, only had around 300 voters. Even though the church will have more machines and workers based on past usage, it will probably not have 5 times as many as the high school.”

You can also prepare your ballot ahead of Election Day to reduce time spent in the voting center. You can find a sample ballot on the McLennan County elections website. You can fill out the sample ballot prior to arriving at your voting center and bring it with you. Then, you won’t have to take the time to make decisions while you’re in the voting booth.   (Note: you will need to know your precinct number to select the correct sample ballot. Your precinct number is listed on your voter registration card or you can find it at this website. Login to get your voter information including your precinct number.)

A full list of health protocols that can be encouraged in polling places all around Texas can be read here.

College Students and Voting

College students who are not permanent residents of McLennan County have three options when it comes to voting: the first (and probably most common) is to vote absentee from Waco. Because you are away from home and in a different county, you qualify for mail-in voting in Texas (if you are an out of state student, check your state’s absentee ballot rules here).

The second option is to go home during the early voting period and vote early in your hometown, but that can be hard to do with a busy college schedule.

The third option is to register to vote in McLennan County. However, you can’t be registered in McLennan county and your home county, so you would need to determine if Waco is your primary residence over your hometown. Then you would go through the regular voter registration process and vote in person in Waco.

Voting- It’s Your Civic Duty!

You may have seen a lot more hype and conversation surrounding this year’s election, but voting in elections has always been important, and it has always mattered. Your vote matters. Voting holds our elected officials accountable, and every vote is significant, especially in close races. Voting lets you be an active, influential participant in your community, and it is a right that, historically, many people had to fight to achieve.

Chan-Park stresses the importance of voting and the impact it has on your individual community, saying, “Try to be an informed voter…. Don’t just vote in the ‘big’ elections for President and Senator. The results of ‘down ballot’ races can affect our day-to-day lives too.”

So get registered, get out there, and make your voice heard on November 3! (or before!)


Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Caritas of Waco Volunteers Needed

By Andrew Bryngelson, Caritas of Waco Volunteer Coordinator

In 2019, Caritas had over 2,400 volunteers give more than 37,700 hours of their time in our food pantry, in our Hidden Treasures thrift stores, and at various fundraising events and food drives. The support our volunteers bring us is invaluable and without them, we wouldn’t be able to serve and meet the needs of the community.

We have several dedicated volunteers who serve with us. Many come to volunteer at Caritas because of their own personal experiences.

 “Thirty years ago I was homeless, but God took care of me and I like being able to give back. I like to meet the people everyday and brighten their day. When you pass out the food, it makes you realize how fortunate you are that you can come down and help.”

Hong Paskos, Caritas Volunteer

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020, Caritas of Waco has continued to see an increase in the number of families needing assistance due to job furloughs, layoffs, business closings, and cutbacks. In August of 2020, we served 10,255 individuals, an increase of 2,755 individuals from our usual monthly average of 7,500.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we limited our volunteers to protect staff, clients, and to practice social distancing. During that time we relied on volunteer service organizations like National Charity League and Young Men’s Service League. Both organizations are mothers volunteering with their children.

 “The Young Men’s Service League values our partnership with Caritas for so many reasons. Our members enjoy the opportunity to serve the community directly with grocery distribution, and the clients are always so grateful, it really makes our members feel like they are helping make a difference. Caritas has taken such great steps to ensure volunteers’ health when bagging groceries or delivering food to clients in their vehicles, our members feel safe at all times while volunteering. Caritas is a philanthropy that does so much good for such a large number of people and we are so happy that we can assist them in their mission.”

Lorynn Divita, Young Men’s Service League, Vice President, Philanthropy

To meet the increased need for food and to practice social distancing, we shifted our pantry operations to a drive-thru model. The drive-thru pantry service is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-11:00 AM and 1:00-2:00 PM, with no appointment necessary. We need volunteers to assist with loading food into client vehicles. To practice social distancing, only trunks and truck beds are loaded, so volunteers do not have contact with clients. Volunteers need to be able to lift at least 50 pounds and be able to tolerate heat.

“I love to be able to help those in need and Caritas feeds so many people and helps them keep their independence.”

Cherry Boggess, Caritas Volunteer

In addition to our drive-thru pantry service, volunteers are also needed at our Hidden Treasures stores located at 3912 Bosque Boulevard and 3016 Bellmead Drive. The thrift stores sell household items, clothing, and furniture that have been donated by the community. Money made from sales help to fund Caritas of Waco. Volunteers are needed to help sort and process donated items. Volunteer hours at our Bosque location are Monday through Friday 9:00 AM-4:00 PM and on Saturdays from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM. Volunteer hours at our Bellmead location are Monday through Friday 11:00 AM-6:00 PM and on Saturdays from 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.

All volunteers are required to wear closed-toe shoes and to wear a mask the entire time they are volunteering. Volunteers also need to bring their own mask. To protect the health of our staff, clients, and volunteers, upon arrival to any of our facilities, your temperature will be taken and you will be asked if you have been exposed to anyone with the virus and if you are experiencing any symptoms. We ask that if you have been exposed to anyone with Covid-19 and/or are experiencing symptoms to please stay home and follow CDC guidelines.

To volunteer at Caritas of Waco, please submit a volunteer form on our website at http://www.caritas-waco.org/volunteer_application.aspx . For additional information on volunteer opportunities, I can be reached at abryngelson@caritas-waco.org or 254-753-4593 Ext. 203.


Andrew Bryngelson graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing. He has been with Caritas for four years and has had the pleasure of serving as Volunteer Coordinator for the past two years. Andrew has a passion for helping others and he enjoys working with our volunteers to place them where they can use their time and talents to serve the community. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Civic Insights: Who Pays for that Pipe? Part II

(City council, school board, planning commission, county commissioners – these groups and several others represent us.  They do the day to day work of running our community. It is our responsibility to keep informed about their work so that we can help them represent us effectively.  “Civic Insights” by Jeffrey Vitarius is a regular feature of Act Locally Waco.  Its purpose is to help us understand decisions that shape our community so that we can participate effectively as informed, engaged residents of Waco. – ALW)   

By Jeffrey Vitarius

Two weeks ago, we took a broad look at impact fees as a policy. In that post, I noted that Waco is in the transition between the could part of the adoption process and the should part of the adoption process. This week, let’s dive into some of the details of the “could” work that has already been done.

The impact fee adoption process (both could and should)is governed by Local Government Code Chapter 395 – Financing Capital Improvements Required by New Development in Municipalities, Counties and Certain Other Local Governments. The local government code can be seen from a high level as “rules for cities and counties.” Different chapters of the code deal with different issues. For example Chapter 372 provides the rules around how PIDs are established and maintained, Chapter 102 deals with municipal budgets, and Chapter 309 addresses arts and entertainment districts. 

Chapter 395 lays out in detail how a City or County could go about establishing impact fees. It, for example, defines capital improvements as facilities that are expected to last at least three years, are owned and operated by a “a political subdivision” (read city or county, though there are other kinds of political subdivisions. Incidentally this is also defined in Chapter 395), and are water supply, treatment, and distribution facilities; wastewater collection and treatment facilities; storm water, drainage, and flood control facilities (pipes), or roadway facilities (roads). 

Chapter 395 identifies a six-part process in adopting impact fees (more details on these steps below):

  1. Establish an Advisory Committee 
  2. Develop a Capital Improvements Plan
  3. Hold a Public Hearing on Land Use Assumptions and Capital Improvements Plan and Potentially Approve these Items
  4. Calculate Maximum Impact Fee Per Service Unit
  5. Hold a Public Hearing on Impact Fees 
  6. Potentially Approve Adoption of Impact Fees

Right now Waco is between steps four and five. Step five is scheduled with a public hearing on October 6th and based on Chapter 395 step six would have to occur within thirty days of that public hearing. Let’s take a look at each of the steps that have already occurred in a little more detail.

1. Establish an Advisory Committee

Chapter 395 requires that the “governing body of the political subdivision” (in this case the City Council of Waco) establish a committee to weigh in throughout the impact fee adoption process. The code makes it clear that this committee needs to include at least one voice from the real estate, development, or building industries to speak into the impact fee process. These are the industries most likely to bear the cost of an impact fee. The code also tasks this committee with providing advice on the adoption of land use assumptions, file written comments on the capital improvements plan (more on that below), and reviewing the progress of the capital improvements plan over time. 

The City Council created such a committee on July 16th 2019 and it held its first meeting on July 23rd, 2019. Since that time it has met regularly to review and provide input to this process.

2. Develop a Capital Improvements Plan

The development of the Capital Improvements Plan is likely the most complicated part of the entire impact fee process. If you remember back to the post two weeks ago, I used the simple example of a new set of homes on what used to be a farm. Under those conditions it is easy to trace certain infrastructure improvements to that specific development. However, in reality, the city needs to be able to project (theoretically) all of the developments that are going to take place over the next ten years andthe capital improvements that go along with those developments. That difficult projection work (which we will take a closer look at another time) is compiled into a Capital Improvements Plan. For right now we will just take a summary view.

From a high level you can think through the process of developing this plan in the following way. First, you need to make some assumptions about land use. You need to know how it is anticipated that land not currently developed will be used if developed. There is a big difference between a farm turning into the Central Texas Marketplace and the same farm becoming a set of one-story single-family homes. These assumptions are so critical to the process that they are explicitly listed as being part of the Capital Improvements Plan public hearing.

Once you identify how land is likely to be used, you can work on projecting how much different parts of town will grow. You combine the amount of growth and the land use assumptions together to figure out what kind of growth will occur (once again the Central Texas Marketplace and single-family suburbs are very different). Knowing what kind of growth is projected to occur, lets you know how much increased demand for water, wastewater, and roadways there will be. 

Next, you compare projected need against the capacity of the current system to see what projects will be needed by the anticipated demand. Where will you need to increase the size of a pipe or lay down a new road? Finally, you establish projected budgets for the needed projects. The result (of this and some additional analysis noted below) is a two-hundred and thirty-four page study. In Waco, this work was conducted by Freese and Nichols, Inc with input from the advisory committee and various City Departments. Once this analysis is complete it is ready to be reviewed by the public and potentially approved by City Council. 

3. Hold a Public Hearing on Land Use Assumptions and Capital Improvements Plan and Potentially Approve these Items

The City held a public hearing on the Land Use Assumptions and Capital Improvements Plan on March 17th, 2020.  At that time there were no public comments. The City Council passed RES-2020-237 approving the Land Use Assumptions and Capital Improvements Plan at its next regular meeting on  April 7th, 2020

4. Calculate Maximum Impact Fee Per Service Unit 

Once the Land Use Assumptions and Capital Improvements Plan are approved a calculation can be done that (in the broadest sense) divides the cost of the capital improvements needed by the number of new “service units” (think individual houses) generated by new developments. The result is the maximum impact fee that can be imposed per service unit. There are some details regarding this analysis that we won’t get into this week, but this provides a high-level overview. This analysis is also included in the lengthy study linked to above. 

This calculation was presented to City Council on August 18th, 2020. At that time the council discussed the process. Concerns were expressed on both sides of the policy (that implementation might discourage development or that not implementing would burden resident taxpayers with the cost of these improvements). It was noted that peer cities had implemented impact fees. 

That gets us caught up with the process so far. I hope to be back to with a more detailed look at that Freese and Nichols study around the time of the public hearing on the subject.

Meeting Basics – Waco Capital Improvements Advisory Committee – 09/23/20

  • Regular Meeting – 12:00 pm
  • For the full agenda click here

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and now serves as that organization’s treasurer and Pride Planning Chair. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.