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

September 15th, 2009
Kyle to slow down rec center project

Kyle Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Urbanowicz (facing projection screen) outlines the results of a citizen survey regarding a proposed recreation center. Councilmember David Wilson is seated at the council dais. Photo by Lance Duncan.

News Reporter

KYLE — A slow economy and a growing tax burden on Kyle property owners caused the city council last week to slow down a $20 million recreation center project.

Kyle officials could still place a measure on the May 2010 ballot asking voters to approve a debt issue to finance the project, but the council decided to at least put the project on hold once the design phase is complete.

The city already is making payments on $73 million of debt, which forced the staff to initially propose a 12-cent tax hike to 49.6 cents per $100 of taxable value for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

City officials have warned that if the city adds a rec center, a new police station and a new library to that load, the additional $30 million in debt could push the tax rate near 70 cents in FY 2011.

Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzales noted that the rec center was first proposed at a time when Kyle had much less debt.

“We’ve done a lot of road projects since that initial discussion,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, but we need to build something we can afford.”

Councilmember David Wilson said the rec center isn’t an appropriate project for the city at this point, adding that citizens need time to consider it.

A proposal to take $382,000 budgeted for the rec center and apply it to debt service failed after city Finance Director Charles Cunningham implored the council to keep the money in its place.

As a penny on the Kyle tax rate raises about $132,000, the application of existing rec center funds would have dropped the tax rate nearly three cents from the 48.58 rate that was on the table at the start of last week’s meeting.

But Cunningham said that the remaining $382,000 in rec center money would be needed in the future to finish the design and do further studies on the project. Councilmember Michelle Lopez agreed, saying “we’re going to have to pay now or pay later.”

Councilmembers remain interested in the public’s opinion regarding a rec center. City surveys taken in recent years indicate that citizens want the facility. However, those same surveys indicated limits as to what citizens are willing to pay.

Kyle Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Urbanowicz displayed a graph showing that 42 percent of Kyle residents said they wouldn’t want to pay more than $5 to $8 per month in taxes for the center, and 32 percent don’t want for it to be funded by taxes at all. The owner of a $150,000 property in Kyle would pay an extra $6.25 per month if the city raised the ad valorem rate by five cents.

Lopez said she wants to see a yes or no from Kyle’s citizens, and that she wants a guaranteed maximum price set for the center before the design process is terminated, so citizens will know the cost.

Councilmember David Salazar agreed with Lopez, saying that the council should be committed to at least giving the citizens an accurate number for how much the center would cost. He also cautioned the council against putting off the project indefinitely, saying “the cost of construction will be a lot higher down the road.”

Councilmember Ray Bryant said that at some point, the rec center needs to be finished, since the design phase has been mostly funded. Byrant asked what the timeline would be for putting off the project, and echoed what Salazar said about construction costs being more expensive down the line.

Councilmember Lucy Johnson said her discussions with Cunningham and City Manager Tom Mattis indicate that the rec center might not currently be affordable for Kyle. Johnson said that she would prefer to stop after the design phase. Councilmember Becky Selbera agreed with Johnson.

Mattis said that city staff would be able to complete the final steps of the design phase before a May bond election, provided that staff is given the remaining funds near the beginning of next year.

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