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

February 11th, 2010
May Kyle election to take shape after Saturday vote

021110gonzopickettWhen Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez, left, announced his run for Hays County Commissioner, he started a change of events that stands to transform the Kyle City Council between Saturday’s special election and the general election in May. Financial consultant Bradley Pickett, right, has already announced his run in May for the seat being vacated by Councilmember David Salazar.

STAFF REPORT

As Kyle political initiates await the outcome of Saturday’s loaded special city council election, the dominoes already are starting to fall for the general election involving two council seats scheduled for May 8.

Kyle Councilmember David Salazar, whose Place 3 seat represents the city at-large, has decided to pack it in after two terms. Financial consultant Bradley Pickett, recently named to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) has already announced that he will run for the seat.

“I’m giving myself a term limit,” Salazar said. “I’m thinking that two terms is plenty. Six years is a while. There are plenty of people who want to do more for the community, and I couldn’t stand in their way.”

One other seat is up for election in May, but that race won’t begin to shape up until after Saturday’s election, which includes a mayoral contest between two sitting councilmembers — Michelle Lopez of Place 1 and Lucy Johnson of Place 5. Both places represent the city at-large.

Both councilmembers have technically resigned their positions, though they will remain seated until their replacements are chosen. Johnson’s seat will be filled in Saturday’s election between four contenders. Lopez’s seat will be filled in the May election, which is when her term was scheduled to expire. Even if Lopez loses the mayoral election Saturday, she will remain on the council until May, and she could stay on if she wins a May election. No candidates, including Lopez, have announced that they will run for Lopez’s seat in the May election.

Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan said 483 voters cast early ballots in Kyle — 479 in person and four by mail. With a young population of approximately 27,000, Kyle has about 12,000 registered voters. Cowan said it’s unlikely the Kyle vote will reach ten percent.

The four candidates for Johnson’s Place 5 seat, which represents the city at-large, are Kyle firefighter Mike Fulton, artist Jon Claeton, Hometown Kyle resident John Simmang and long-time Kyle resident Jaime Sanchez, who won a lawsuit against the city concerning a piece of downtown property in 2008.

The other Kyle city council election pits Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commissioner Rhonda Cox against local banker Russ Huebner for Place 6, which represents the eastern portions of the city. The seat came open when Councilmember Ray Bryant announced his run for Hays County Precinct 2 commissioner as a Democrat. Bryant is unopposed in the March 2 primary.

The mayor’s seat came open when Mayor Mike Gonzalez announced his run for Precinct 2 commissioner as a Republican. Gonzalez is opposed by Hays CISD Trustee Mark Jones in the March 2 primary.

Pickett has lived in Kyle for four years after receiving his masters of business administration (MBA) in finance in 2003. He has worked for four Fortune 500 companies in his 20 years of experience with various financial management roles.

Pickett said the city’s indebtedness of $73 million could have been at least reduced by utilizing different financial approaches before borrowing. The city has borrowed in the last eight years for more than a dozen big ticket items, including the construction of Kyle Parkway, a new city hall, an east side fire station, a re-alignment of SH 150, infrastructure improvements to facilitate the Seton Hospital development and projects for the original part of town such as downtown streetscaping and sewage upgrades.

To pay debt service, the city has raised its property tax rate more than 50 percent in the last two years, from 27.07 cents to 42.4 cents per $100 of taxable value. Of that 42.4-cent tax rate on the current budget, 24.1 cents goes towards debt service. In the last two years, the maintenance and operations (M&O) side of the city’s tax rate has increased from 15.07 cents to 18.3 cents, while the interest and sinking (I&S) side has increased from 12 cents to 24.1 cents.

“We are at that critical moment in our city’s development; with a slowing local economy, borrowing that is out of control, spiraling property taxes, and a need for infrastructure spending,” Pickett said. “We must be diligent about long-term planning in how we approach the future.”

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0 thoughts on “May Kyle election to take shape after Saturday vote

  1. So if I understand this correctly, if Michelle Lopez of Place 1 loses to Lucy Johnson for mayor she could then run for her seat again in May. If Lucy Johnson loses to Michelle Lopez she could run for seat vacated by David Salazar since his seat is an at-large seat. This is going to be an interesting election cycle for Kyle that could even include run-offs. It will be fun to see how this all unfolds.

  2. If Lopez loses – she’s still on Council until May. Even though she resigned, she continues to serve until she’s replaced (or runs again and is re-elected). If Lopez wins, however, there will be an empty seat for Place 1. Therefore, it will be a 6-member council until May. And the potential for some tie votes.

  3. So I have been keeping up with all of these recent seat changes and what I have walked away with is a feeling of frustration. I remember voting for many of these folks who are now vacating their current positions to run for new positions when they haven’t even come close to doing what they promised in current role. I live on the Eastside of 35 and I was very much looking forward to having a place where my children could participate in extracurricular activities without having to drive into San Marcos or Buda. This was prommised in the last election cycle, but, No Rec Center. So disappointing. I have had my property taxes increase, but haven’t really been able to really see the benefit. Yes, I see the new stores in town and I am very, very happy about this development. But I am just as disappointed that I am still spending all of my funds in San Marcos, Austin and Buda when it comes to giving my children and opportunity to participate in safe, age appropriate activities. It seems to me that the folks we elected have really abandoned the people of Kyle for all of their own political aspirations. The desire to have the bigger and better positions within the county. I am hoping that whom ever is elected into the current seats will be willing to stick around and actually fight for what the citizens of Kyle really want in the community now. I am not talking about building these huge fancy complexes that are too costly and will cost too much right now. I am talking about meeting the needs of the people now and developing a plan that allows for future expansion as funds allow. Start small with our Rec Center. You guys have the land already. We don’t need a million-dollar complex to meet the needs of the current population. Build a facility that will meet the current needs and then after that facility has paid for itself with annual fees, add on! I mean seriously, bring our money home from the San Marcos Activity Center and the Y in Buda! I currently have three kids enrolled in activities year round in San Marcos and would gladly keep those dollars at home if I could…. So to sum it up, all you folks who are running for office, let’s please plan to stick around in your current position and meet the needs of the people who are here now and follow through on your campaign promises.

  4. Your confusion should be over now that the election is settled. But I don’t understand why you are only concerned about one issue – the Recreation Center. Our town is facing numerous issues, including the need for additional roads, old and failing infrastructure in the older parts of town, major drainage issues, polluted creeks, and falling revenues. Just to name a few.

    The proposed Recreation Center will cost, at a minimum, $20 million. This will NOT be paid for by the annual fees. Annual fees will be used to pay for the maintenance and operating costs of the facility. And we will be fortunate if they do, in fact, cover all of the costs of operating such a facility. The $20 million in new bonded debt that will be issued to pay for this facility will add an additional 12 to 14 cents on your annual city tax rate each year until the bonds are paid off (a minimum of 20 years). Since our current tax rate is .424, the recreation center would increase this tax rate to .544 to .564 – almost 60 cents. And our tax rate is expected to be raised in the fall of this year to accommodate additional debt payments for other projects (at a minimum, $18 million of bonded debt for the IH-35 improvements and Dacy Lane). So the tax rate – with a recreation center – could skyrocket over 60 cents very quickly. By comparison, Buda’s city tax rate is currently .225 In addition, it would cost everyone who wanted to use the facility additional monies just to walk inside the door.

    We can’t compete with Buda for economic development (or San Marcos) with a tax rate that high. New commercial development will choose to locate in one of the towns along the IH-35 corridor with a lower tax rate. Why do you think commercial development came here in the first place? We had one of the lowest tax rates – and lots of rooftops. Well, housing development has slowed to practically nothing. And our tax rate is soaring.

    It could be possible to build a recreation center in cooperation with the YMCA like Buda did. Or to build a smaller facility like you suggested. But the Recreation Center Committee did not want to look at these options.

    The City of Kyle currently is approximately $73 to $74 million in debt (over $100 million if you add in interest). The city needs a new library and a new police station. In particular, the police station is badly needed. We also need additional roads. I am always stunned when I hear people complain about the need for the Recreation Center as though it’s the only thing we need in Kyle. At least we have parks, a public swimming pool, and the beginnings of a great trail system. There are opportunities for recreation without the need to build a “cadillac” facility that, quite frankly, we just can’t afford right now.

    I would urge you to attend the City Council meetings to learn more about what is going on in Kyle. The City Council meets the first and third Tuesdays of every month at 6:30. The current budget is available online on the city’s website.

  5. One more thing. The leaders of Kyle have not abandoned your children for political aspirations. They are looking after your children – and their future. Some of them do not want to see your children strapped with a heavy debt that will continue for 20 to 30 years. That IS looking after your children’s welfare – as well as your own well-being.

    I encourage you to contact your council members and get involved. It sounds like you have some great ideas and I think our city could benefit from them.

    Please look into our City’s Parks and Recreation Department’s programs. They have some great activities. We also have baseball leagues here in Kyle.

  6. In response, I do keep up and I am aware of all the things that are going on in our community right now, and in spite of what was insinuated I am fairly intelligent and keep abreast of the things going on in the community at this time. I still say that I feel that the people who were newly elected into their positions left and moved on to bigger and better before being successful at the local level.

    In addition, I voted against the plans for the rec center b/c I personally believe it is too much too fast. I think perhaps if the indvidual responding would have been more interested in actually reading than the next response, you might have found that we were on the same side of things. I think we have spent way too much money, taxed me at an outrageous increase and still the community suffers and lags behind others. What I WANT is a group of people in charge who are focused on what is going on here and now. As I said in my original post, WE DO NOT NEED MILLION DOLLAR FACILITIES, to meet the needs of the current population, but we do need to do something. I certainly don’t mind spending my money in other locations, but I do recall many campaign promises to do what was needed to control the cities budget and still provide for the needs of the community.

    Going further, I believe that the city council has placed too much money into the wrong projects, but you’re right, I don’t attend city council meetings, I just read the information presented and attended the Council member’s open forums and listen to the presentations, oh, I have read a few articles. I didn’t just write in b/c I wanted to be online, I wrote in because I think the candidates needed to know and still need to know that citizens are frustrated and disappointed. Thanks for the educational information on the taxes, but that too was information I was already aware because contrary to your assumption, I do take interest in the budget and the events within this GREAT city.

    I am not someone who was born and raised in Kyle and in fact was convinced to move her without really thinking this was the spot for me. We’ve been here now for about 5 years and I have found that I do enjoy things here, I am not sure if you are a long term resident Ms. Knight, but it would have been nice to have read a response that had a much nicer and less degrading tone. Sorry if my frustration upset you, but it is how I felt.

    Have a Great day! and I hopeful the newly elected folks from the Special Election will do the job for us! Congrats to Ms. Lopez and Mr. Huebner!

  7. The tax rate of Kyle was abt 60 cents in 1999 but no told those Elected Officials not to cut taxes as they slashed taxes time and time again. If the tax rate had stayed at 60 cents Kyle would be in a better place to pay for good roads etc. today. One place we could cut is three million for a new library. We already have one and when I went there a few weeks ago on a Friday it was not very full of people. Safety and roads like Lehman, Beebe and Goforth need attention but those are not on the westside of IH35 where a large majority of City Council live. Btw, the Rec cost is not a minimum of 20 million because it is the Council that decides what to spend not any committee. Safe roads should come first.

  8. Lucy Johnson won the election, not Ms. Lopez. Hope you’re not too disappointed to learn this. Huebner and Sanchez also won. I am certain they will all work as hard as possible for all of us. And Mr. Huebner lives on the east side of town, as does Ms. Lopez who will continue to serve as councilwoman until the May election (and she may decide to run for re-election at that time).

    I apologize to Frustrated Hays Resident (but you must live in Kyle) if you felt my “tone” was too severe. But then, you also were complaining a great deal in your initial post and placing most of the blame on politicians. I take the stance that it is the responsibility of the citizens to stand up, get involved, and make their voices heard about the direction we want our City to go. Blaming politicians is a cop-out for me.

    With regards to Kyle Taxpayer – in 1999, there were less than 5,000 people living in Kyle. That is why the tax rate was so high. Fewer people = need for higher taxes to bring in money. As the city began growing – or we should say mushrooming – the city’s coffers were filled with revenue from fees charged developers. There was no real need to keep charging the citizens such a high tax rate. Besides, the lower tax rate we had throughout the first decade of this century encouraged the commercial development we witnessed. The high appraisal value of commercial property results in large tax bills – if the tax rate is high. Commercial development will not be attracted to Kyle – they will go elsewhere where the tax rate is much lower. Like Buda.

    Dacy Lane is currently scheduled to be widened and reconstructed at a cost of $14 million. Engineering plans are underway. There are no such plans for a road on the west side. But that hardly matters. I believe it is a real mistake to cut this town in two and talk about east side vs. west side (or even vs. “old” downtown Kyle). We should be thinking about our city “as a whole.” You live in Kyle – not East Kyle. Let’s not allow IH-35 to become the Berlin Wall.

    Everyone is frustrated by the lack of good roads. But the City’s recent annexations last fall took on a lot of roads (Lehman, Beebe, Goforth, and the rest of Dacy) that were formerly COUNTY roads. The city could not take on the improvement of county roads. And the county was strapped for road funds as they have to build roads county-wide. But whereas Dacy Lane was a cooperative project between the county and the city (part of the road is in the city), I fear that such projects in the future may not be possible. We will be stuck with the bill for all these roads. And even if we had the money, roads are not built overnight. They take careful planning and just the acquisition of the right-of-way takes time. Not everyone is happy about having their land taken for a new road.

    The library IS too small. Maybe you went during an off-hour. You should see it when all the kids are there for story telling time. Maybe you would like to volunteer in the library and get to know the situation better. They could use the help. Our police station is also too small.

    I believe that all areas of our town are well-represented on Council. We have 3 places on Council that represent specific areas of town. The other 3 places are city-wide. Before Saturday’s election, we had 3 people from the west side, 2 people from the east side, and 2 people from the older part of town. Following Saturday’s election, we have 2 people from the west side, 2 people from the east side, and 3 people from the older part of town. There is balance on our Council. No one has a majority. Now, or in the past.

  9. I am glad we both agree that 5 live on the westside of IH35. New districts should be drawn out as they are still based on old population trends. The current population center is east of IH35 and near the Seton Hospital. On the issue of taxes, Pflugerville and other cities around it have some of the highest taxes in all of Central Texas but businesses continue to build there. No one will die from a crowded library and I have not heard the Police Chief state that we are less safe because they do not have a desk for everyone. More people will get hurt and some may die if the roads on the eastside are not addressed soon.

  10. LOL If you think that people in the suburbs on the west side have the same issues as people who live in the older part of town, then you don’t know Kyle very well. I agree we need to redraw the lines of the 3 single districts. Some of us have been harping on this for years. But at this point, in order to do it right, we will probably have to wait for the census. Any redrawing of those districts has to be approved by the Dept. of Justice. sigh.

    Check out the sales tax decline for Pflugerville. It’s not all rosy there. They are struggling like many other cities along the IH-35 corridor.

    And the police chief HAS stated, on numerous occasions, that we need a new police station. Maybe you just didn’t hear him. But I do agree with you that the roads on the east side need to be addresses. I just don’t know where we are going to find the money at this point in time. Roads are far more expensive than a library – or even a police station. But the City is currently revising its Master Transportation Plan. I suspect you will see a greater emphasis on the roads on the east side of town in the revision. You should get involved in this process by attending the public meetings of the Kyle Comprehensive Master Plan.

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