SALADO — The Texas Department of Transportation confirmed that construction on Interstate 35 between Salado and Belton is on track to meet a late 2015 completion date.

The statement comes after Salado Mayor Skip Blancett said at a recent board of aldermen meeting: “TxDOT has moved the completion date from April 2016 to November 2015.”

Jodi Wheatley, TxDOT Interstate 35 spokeswoman, was unable to verify that November 2015 is a firm completion date, saying “We have late 2015 on our simplified list, so fall 2015 it is.”

Both ongoing construction projects in Salado — the 3-mile project from Farm-to-Market 2843 to FM 2484 and the 8-mile project from FM 2484 to U.S. Highway 190 in Belton — had completion dates that ranged from late 2014 to early 2016.

“Estimates have varied at different times and have depended on what we’ve been able to get accomplished and what problems we’ve run into,” Wheatley said.

Since construction on I-35 began in August 2012, Salado’s tourism-based economy has suffered more than most area cities.

During the last few months, Jim Reed, who was serving as Salado’s village administrator, repeatedly mentioned how important the sales tax is to the economic health of the village.

Salado’s 2015 budget anticipates that sales tax will generate $375,000 of the village’s estimated $963,800 in annual income, making it the single largest source of revenue in the village.

Despite the reliance on sales tax, monthly revenues continue to fall. 

Salado’s monthly sales tax payment of $23,875 was down 14.34 percent from September 2013.

And the village’s year-to-date payments remain down 2.33 percent from last year’s total of $281,147.

“If sales tax goes away, the economic basis of this town disappears,” Reed said in April, and reiterated in July. “If sales taxes go down, it puts pressure on property taxes.”

Blancett said once the construction is complete, Salado will “hold a parade for TxDOT.”

“We’ll print up T-shirts that say on the front ‘Thank you for everything,’” Blancett said. “And on the back they’ll say ‘And don’t come back, Jack,’ or something like that.”

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