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August 24th, 2009
Kyle citizens debate service cuts

Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis, left, and Mayor Mike Gonzalez, right, at last week’s city council meeting. Photo by Lance Duncan.

News Reporter

KYLE — The possibility of decreased city services looms in Kyle as the city faces a second consecutive double-digit increase in its property tax rate.

After taking the tax rate for Fiscal Year 2009 from 27.07 cents per $100 of taxable value to 37.31 cents, the city now is looking at another bump of 12.29 cents to 49.6 cents in FY 2010.

Almost all of the new increase, 10.6 cents, is earmarked for debt service payments required by loan terms, meaning the city can only cut its tax rate by trimming operations to be funded by 19 cents of the proposed ad valorem tax rate.

Increased demand for city services such as police protection has combined with a slow economy to place Kyle in a budgeting bind. The city grew quickly from 1999, when it issued 323 building permits for single-family homes, through 2004, when residential building permits peaked at 1,220. But residential building has declined since then to the point at which the city projected only 464 such permits for 2008. Now, homeowners are in place to require services, but the fees from building activity aren’t enough to defray those costs.

“Cries for help cost money,” Kyle resident Alan McPherson told those in attendance last week at a city council discussion about the budget and tax rate. “We’re stuck having to do a tax raise to compensate for the low taxes we’ve had while we’ve been living off developer fees.”

Kyle has grown enormously in the last ten years, increasing from 5,340 residents on the 2000 Census to nearly 30,000 today.

“We don’t want to be like other cities on the news losing their services,” McPherson said, encouraging citizens and the city council to “bite the bullet” for the time being and accept the raise in taxes.

McPherson added that Kyle has an unbalanced economy due to the current lack of commercial taxation, and that “hopefully the overall tax burden will equalize” once the city sees more of the incoming commercial growth.

Kyle resident and Texas State professor Jo Ann Zimmerman was equally concerned about potential cuts to city services, pointing out that her neighbors have repeatedly asked her when the city’s new recreation center will be constructed. A request for $18-20 million to build a rec center is likely to go before voters in May 2010. Zimmerman said that parks and recreation aren’t suitable services for cuts.

“Recreation is the glue that holds the community together,” Zimmerman said, pointing out that people are drawn to buy houses in cities that have good amenities and services.

Zimmermansaid her students at Texas State have many opportunities to learn by participating in those programs in Kyle, adding her worries about their chances for internships and job experience if funding is cut. Zimmerman said that there aren’t many places in Hays County where her students can gain that kind of experience.

Kyle Resident Lila Knight represented a different viewpoint. Knight applauded the city council for taking a hard look at the budget and trying to make tough decisions in regards to cuts, saying she appreciates the council’s willingness to try keeping taxes low.

“Not every citizen can afford to pay these taxes,” she said.

Kyle resident Annette Pickett said, based on her experience in accounting, that new employee positions for the city could be temporary, which would save on taxes and employee benefits. Pickett recommended creating a temporary employment database and suggested that that nonprofit organizations and local businesses could help to support city events with funding.

Pickett said that while the city pool is “a loss” financially, it is a benefit for the city. Many subdivisions in Kyle do not have their own pools, Pickett said, suggesting that residents of those subdivisions could help to pay for the city pool upkeep. Pickett said she wholeheartedly agrees that services bind communities and families together.

Kyle resident Gene Harris said that he is “just a taxpayer,” reminding the council that most local companies are asking their employees to take time off each quarter, making for harder financial situations. Harris asked the council to seriously consider making cuts to lower the tax rate.

City Manager Tom Mattis told citizens that the tax rate discussion is still “early in the process” and that there is a long way to go.

Several citizens who spoke on behalf of the city’s recreation department appear to have been alarmed by an email sent out by Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Urbanowicz, who claimed that the city was planning to cut the entire recreation budget and possibly dissolve the department.

However, there was little indication at last week’s meeting that extensive cuts will be made to Kyle’s parks and recreation department.

Further tax rate discussion will occur at the next Kyle City Council budget workshop on Tuesday night, Aug. 25.

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