San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 29th, 2008
Buda year in review: Change at the top, but not on Main Street

STAFF REPORT

BUDA – Year One of home rule in Buda ushered in new blood for the government, but the city continued to struggle with stagnation downtown while declining sales taxes from Interstate-35 retail forced budget cuts.

The year began with the city sure to break up a city council that had run the store for, in essence, five years to the drums of growth and prosperity. With a new home rule charter going into effect, voters would be asked to add one city council member and select a mayor to replace John Trube, who had resigned the previous summer.

Immediately, the pieces began to shift. First Councilmember Hutch White announced his intention to run for mayor. Then, Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Lane filed to run against White. At the end of filing, Buda faced a new dynamic on the council. Four of seven seats were to be filled without a single incumbent under challenge.

But before the election, a council in transition faced another challenge. The city manager, Robert Camereno, resigned in February to take a position in New Braunfels, his hometown. So, the wheels went into motion for a new city manager, with one council starting the process and a new council scheduled to finish it.

When the smoke cleared after the election, Lane beat White in the mayor’s race, Kelly Allen won a council seat unopposed, Ron Fletcher defeated Gerry O’Brien for another seat, and city newcomer Scott Dodd defeated former Buda Mayor Billy Gray in a run-off for the final seat.

The hunt for a new city manager didn’t even go that smoothly. In June, the new council offered the position to Jennifer Tubbs of Watertown, MI. In July, Tubbs turned the city down, citing the need for a housing allowance because the economic downturn that had hit Michigan would keep her house there on the market for six months.

The city council went back to the drawing board and brought in Kenneth Williams from Diboll. Williams conducted his first city council meeting in December.

Meanwhile, the economic downturn that came slower to Texas than the rest of the country made itself felt locally in August.

Due to a sales tax revenue decline of $500,000 from the previous year, along with $800,000 in new debt service, the city staff trimmed $1,1 million from the budget and still proposed a property tax increase from 18.7 cents per $100 to 25 cents. Buda councilmembers, most of whom campaigned on maintaining the city’s famously low tax rate, ended up passing a 22.5 percent tax rate with still more budget cuts.

While the city’s I-35 sales tax suffered, downtown Buda continued with its struggles. Concerned that two Main Street businesses packed up without replacement within the previous few months, downtown business owners asked the city council to pony up for the Main Street Texas program. The new city council refused, but did begin talking about more ways to vitalize Main Street, including code enforcement on neglected properties and the possibility of starting a downtown Public Improvement District (PID).

But even in the midst of Main Street squalor, the city’s central drive enjoyed a moment of glory. In January, Richard Skanse folded his Railroad Street business, The Coffee Nut coffee house and book store, into his Main Street pizzeria, Constantine’s. For nine months, Main Street contained one location where residents could gather for discussion, beer, pizza and coffee, all under one rooftop. But Skanse sold the business in September. A new Italian restaurant opened in its place.

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