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Commissioners advance Robstown ISD effort to bring in Tesla

Tesla store, tesla logo
Posted at 8:54 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-27 13:45:44-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Earlier this month, we reported the vehicle manufacturing company, Tesla, may be moving into the area after an application for tax breaks was filed with the Texas Comptroller's Office.

Following a public hearing on Monday, Nueces County Commissioners approved the creation of a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) in the area between Robstown and Driscoll. It's the proposed site of Tesla's lithium refinery.

These zones don’t create a new tax. Rather, it designates a portion of the property tax in that area to be put towards making the area better and enticing new business.

Although there was much opposition at the public hearing, Robstown Independent School District (RISD) already approved the Chapter 313 tax breaks to bring in Tesla. This TIRZ will allow that to move forward.

“Those are the people that benefit from this the most," Commissioner Brent Chesney said, speaking about the people of western Nueces County. " So I think we got an obligation to move forward on this, to allow the process to work. To allow those public hearings. To allow Robstown to finish doing what they need to do.”

“They get money equal to $100 per ADA, average daily attendance, that is outside of the Texas school financing. And so, they can use that for anything they want,” Mike Culbertson said, CEO of Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Chapter 313’s can be controversial, but Ian Vasey with Nueces County Development Commission argued there’s been previous success.

“The one in Sinton is building a whole new high school out of the revenues from one of these 313 agreements,” said Vasey.

Several stepped up to object all together to bringing Tesla in.

Some of the arguments against focused on not allowing the tech giant to get a break on taxes.

"They're the last ones that need an abatement," Cathy Fulton said, a Port Aransas resident. "I'm sorry if Mr. Elon Musk can't build one more little rocket ship to suspend people in the upper atmosphere for a minute. But you know, that's really not our problem."

Many arguments were on the potential negative environmental impact.

“After everything that we’ve been going through with droughts and restrictions and everything, we are not…they need to bring their own water," said Fulton. "Or we need to be asking these questions. Where’s that water coming from? The other thing that they’re going to need is a water discharge permit."

“Who’s trying to gather ideas from this community to find out what our vision is for the future of this place? What we see are solutions, that don’t harm people, that don’t harm the environment,” said Dorothy Pena with Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend.

This does not mean that Tesla is officially coming to Nueces County. There are still many questions. Tesla filed an application for a Chapter 313, but commissioners said nothing has been filed for a Chapter 312, tax breaks with the county.

John Valls with Robstown Area Development Commission said much more will be learned from Tesla when they do file a Chapter 312 application.

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