San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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EDITOR:
I t has been a long political season and most of us are probably ready for it to be over. Here at home, we have two bond propositions on the ballot for the citizens of Hays County to consider. These propositions are the culmination of several years of work. Relevant stakeholders have helped develop these plans, which are meant to address basic responsibilities and services that are inherent to a Texas county. Both propositions are an effort to address public safety in our community. Your commissioners court unanimously voted to present the questions to you, the voters, on the November ballot.

Proposition 1 is a public safety facility plan that addresses current and future needs for our 9-1-1 emergency communications, emergency management, law enforcement, and jail facilities in Hays County. All of these facilities and services are near or even exceeding capacity. Our 9-1-1 emergency communications and law enforcement centers are located in a facility that is over 40 years old. These vital services are being used more and more each day in one of the fastest-growing communities in America. The plans for these facilities were developed with input from stakeholders in fire, EMS, law enforcement and emergency service agencies across our county who lent their professional knowledge to develop these plans.

Hays County’s jail facility has been used 365 days per year for 28 years. It isn’t just at capacity. Our needs have exceeded its capacity. In this year’s budget, Hays County has budgeted $1.53 million to pay other counties for inmate overflow. We reformed our justice system years ago, with the help of our law enforcement community, the criminal district attorney, our clerks and judges within Hays County. These efforts did have a positive impact. For example, the budget for inmate overflow into other counties was only $10,000 in 2012 and 2013. The impacts of inmate overflow have grown every year since. The reforms of our system bought us time, but no reform can eliminate the effects of growth altogether.

In addition to the capacity issue, unpredictable facility repair costs are popping up on a regular basis. These kinds of repairs can cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to keep the jail operational and within state regulation. A renovated and expanded jail facility, along with the other public safety facilities in Proposition 1, will eliminate the need for significant repairs; and, barring some unforeseeable event, they are the last major building facilities Hays County will need to construct or expand for many years.

Proposition 2 is an effort to continue Hays County’s development of a transportation system that improves public safety, mobility, and economic opportunity in our county. Over the past ten years Hays County has been in a formal agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation. This partnership, along with help from our municipalities, has led to over $500 million in state highway improvements in our community. Almost every state highway project you have seen improved in our county has been done through this program, which is a model for how a local entity can partner with the state to improve transportation in a fast-growing area.

These propositions have caused some questions to Hays County’s financial condition. Following are responses to some of those inquires. The average home owner in Hays County pays $79 a month for all county taxes. This includes paying for every expense from services and labor to debt principal and interest for the entire county.

Hays County has a AA bond rating, which is a significant improvement from years ago; and a AA rating is only two steps away from the highest possible bond rating for a public entity. The county recently financed a portion of debt at a historically low 2.5 percent rate, which is a reflection of Hays County’s strong market position.

Hays County currently carries a total of $354 million in debt. That is a large number, but one that should be considered in perspective. The overwhelming amount of this debt was voter approved. A large part of it has paid for our past transportation and parks programs in Hays County.

Some of these projects include improvements on U.S. 290, FM 1626, Ranch Road 12, FM 110, RM 967 Texas 21 and Interstate 35. The 2007 parks bond helped establish projects like the Jacobs Well Natural Area, Blue Hole Regional Park, Five Mile Dam Park, Dripping Springs Ranch Park, Winters Mill Hike and Bike Trail, the Jackson Tyler Norris Memorial Skate Park in Buda, North Hays Optimist Field in Kyle, San Marcos Tennis Courts and others. The county also issued debt to pay for the Government Center in San Marcos.

Considering state reimbursements and other revenues coming into the county, the tax revenue Hays County needs to pay debt service is less than 20 percent of its annual income. With that perspective in mind, we encourage you to compare that to the debt of an average family or business.

We have attempted to provide you with some of the facts that led the Hays County Commissioners Court to place these Propositions on the ballot. It is up to you to research these propositions and make a decision that you feel is best for you, your family, and your community. We encourage your interest in and your involvement with this important issue.

Proposition 1 is for $106.4 million. Proposition 2 is for $131.4 million. More information can be found at www.hayscountybonds.com

Commissioner DEBBIE GONZALES INGALSBE
San Marcos

Commissioner WILL CONLEY
Wimberley

The San Marcos Mercury welcomes original letters to the editor about issues of public interest. Send letters through our contact page or email them to Editor & Publisher Brad Rollins.

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7 thoughts on “Letter: Get the facts on Hays County bond propositions

  1. It is insulting to keep repeating the line of “only” paying X amount in county taxes. Tax payers hear this from just about every taxing entity and it is getting old. The debt is already too high, in my opinion, and bundling these projects into two large all-or-nothing bonds is not for the tax payers’ benefit. Local taxes state wide have been increasing yty due to appraisals and, yet, the local governments spend all of it and still claim they need more because of growth. And the tax rate can only remain flat if appraisals continue to increase. We are being taxed too much.

  2. The article states: “We reformed our justice system years ago, with the help of our law enforcement community, the criminal district attorney, our clerks and judges within Hays County. These efforts did have a positive impact.”
    Reforms of several years ago aren’t good enough – and more are needed.
    To whit:
    Why has a dorm been closed for several weeks at the jail for simple repainting?
    Why are indigent inmates given bonds higher than they can afford to pay – on non-violent, victim-less offenses – therefore creating a defacto debtor’s prison? (like what Harris County is currently getting sued for!)
    Why do local law enforcement, particularly Kyle PD, overcharge at the slightest provocation? Many Kyle PD charges end up getting thrown out due to being overreach (talk to any Hays County defense attorney, they’ll tell you that) – but in the meantime, it sullies the future and reputation of those they overcharge (and put in jail).
    There are many reforms still needed before Hays County taxpayers shell out millions for a new / renovated jail. Make those reforms, watch the jail population go down, and then, if renovations are still needed, it will be a legitimate ask. Because now, it’s not.

  3. We are simply being taxed outnof Hays County. I have seen folks purchase a home in Kyle only to sell within 6 months to a year when they realize how high property taxes are. Presenting these Props to voters in a single package is disingenuine. Hays County is reportedly the second most indebted County in Texas, Hays CAD assessors unfairly overvalue properties, and no local or County governments are saying NO to overdevelopment whereby pouring more and more drivers into local roads and impacting our quality of life. Hays County and City leaders need to do better by the folks who stick around and are trying to call this home.

  4. Both proposals sound reasonable to me.

    As far as being overtaxed or unfair property valuations….I’ve sold three properties in the last year and each one of them sold for more than the county was taxing me on.

    Is it inconvenient that property values – and thus property taxes – keep going up? Sure it is….but in my experience, the county is actually lagging behind in its increases if anything.

  5. “These propositions are the culmination of several years of work. Relevant stakeholders have helped develop these plans, which are meant to address basic responsibilities and services that are inherent to a Texas county.”
    READ: We have put together our big plans for Hays county for years now, without consulting the average citizen of Hays county or educating any of its citizenry whilst making these plans. But who we have consulted with over these years is our RELEVANT STAKEHOLDERS. These stakeholders are who we are fighting to get these Props passed for.

    “public safety facility plan”
    Hays county has been quite slow over the decades to plan for floods and other natural disasters. People have controlled where the flood plane lines should be drawn in Wimberley for decades. Not to mention the horribly outdated flood gauges we had, those were helpless againt the memorial day flood. All the while acting as if they could could control scientifically studied models stating our flood planes should have been changed, in Wimberley alone, back in the 80s. Yet the deciders dug their heels in, and relied on folks down river to know how the flooding looked in their areas for our warning system, AND did nothing for decades to make “safety” the top priority. I would like to also mention that RR 12 took forever to complete! An extremely unnecessary amount of time to complete the job. RR 3237 is rediculously dangerous, yet we have not done ANY improvements, like shoulders for goodness sakes, even though many people have perished there over the decades. Now two years after our worst flood in history, we are supposed to trust our local politicians and “relevant stake holders” that they have our best interests at heart. Now that the Kyle/Buda/Driftwood/ Wimberley areas are growing with great numbers, and it is worth the time of the politically or investment inclined people, you are expecting us to swallow a plan that started “several years ago”. Now that just two years ago a corporation bought wells on RR3237 and tried to pipeline the water to yet to be built communities to the east. While mentioning that, if Wimberley had not been so stubborn and had created a water protection district in the say 80’s, EP could have never bought those wells.
    I am not alone in thinking we would have liked some input. I say the citizens should have been given the chance to consult experts and others to help everyone come up with a good plan. Especially before telling us, here’s the plan, now pay for it. I realize some public funds must be used raised to update the emergency system here, roads ect, that’s a no-brainer, but I have absolutely lost faith in those who run Hays county to get anything completed in a timely manner and to be totally transparent in making the plans for all the citizens who live here.

    About the bigger jail, I believe Hays county justice techniques and infrastructure, along with those of our country, are out dated. Period. What is the definition of insanity, trying something over and over and expecting different results. Why can’t we citizens fight for a better system that rehabilitates, truly helps people reenter society some day? Why must we pay for a jail if we don’t feel our best interests are at heart? Why do we not spend funds on training officers to learn better disengagement techniques? And learning to recognize mental illness? Is a cage the best, most intelligent choice we have? I refuse to believe that, therefore Prop 1 and 2 are a NO vote for me.

  6. Let me get this straight. We currently owe 354 million in debt and we want to increase that amount by 67.2% or 237.8 million. That is crazy. And you mentioned comparing it percentage wise to the amount of debt a regular or normal family carries. I am in my late 20’s and my wife and I don’t carry any debt except the very small amount we have on our condo. We don’t want to be normal or broke and we sure don’t want our community to be normal or broke either. Let’s shoot for greatness and not settle for a crazy amount of debt. Honestly, if we spent 1.53 million on over flow for prisoners then 106.4 million would allow us, at that rate, 69.5 years of sending our overflow out. Maybe we should spend a tenth of that money instead on teaching and training our community not to be criminals so we don’t have so many in jail. And your right, our community is growing at a crazy rate. But that does not mean we should spend a ton of money our community does not have on these things. Maybe if our government officials started to treat the cities finances and lack there of like it was their own personal money then we would not be trying to fleece the people and their future. Let’s get out of debt and then pay cash upfront for the cities needs. Or else we will be in the same position in 20 or 30 years needing new buildings and we will still not of paid off the debt on the old buildings and items.

  7. As far as Prop 1 goes, it is only necessary due to Hays County proliferation and obsession with firearms (based on 911 statistics and the extra resources required to respond to reports of firearm incidents versus say shoplifting, vandalism, noise complaints, etc.. firearms complaints require multiple officers with specialized equipment and training) – AND – Texas’ slow adaptation to a WELL-TAXED marijuana legalization model that would stunt border-influenced criminal activity, as well as not fill jails with college kids caught with a pinch of weed. Work in a fee and permit system to collect marijuana taxes to pay for ALL of these bonds. It’s a big number we are ignoring, just so politicians with ‘blind’ real estate trusts can negotiate land leases for toll roads, toll roads that should be primarily for commercial trucks to help them be more efficient and keep passenger travel mostly separated to more safe. Stop subsidizing firearms sellers in various ways. Pass laws making gun sellers culpable for selling imbalanced and criminal buyers should they enable the illegitimate customers with deadly force out the door in their possession.
    Prop 2: *See Prop 1. Fix what is broken. The Perry regime and their illegal toll roads and ‘regulations for us but not them’ got us here. The lot of them are just Texas Law Mafia with shoe lifts and secret boyfriend clubs, some with white pointy hats and swishy guy antics of triple k closet faux man common core of corrupt greed and self-entitled hate of others emanating from their own actual inadequacies that their corrupt cash serves as their wimp guy salve.

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