San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz spoke in favor of the city’s advertising aid for the outlet malls, among other programs, and asked for more community volunteerism in her State of the City speech Thursday night at the City of San Marcos Conference Center.
Narvaiz pointed out to the audience of about 400 people that occasional voting doesn’t serve the city nearly so well as volunteering, which engages participants with the city every day.
The mayor also said that even though discussion about city policy may rage around conflict from time to time, it remains that 97 percent of the city council votes are unanimous.
Narvaiz began her speech by laying out the situation she sees in front of the city. On the down side, she said, the city’s sales tax haul for the 12-month period ending in August was 1.9 percent less than the preceding year, though, she said, “We held our own,” indicating that the retail component of the city’s economy is succeeding.
Said Narvaiz, “While other cities have been experiencing double-digit losses — and although (sales tax revenue trends represent) not the positive increases that we have seen in recent times — it is a number that reflects our sound practices and smart financial reinvestment in our retail market that is the major revenue source for our general fund.”
Narvaiz gave as an example of “financial reinvestment” the city’s advertising funds to the two outlet malls. The city gave $307,000 to Prime Outlet Mall and $252,000 to Tanger Outlet Mall in its Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Prime and Tanger received $307,000 and $250,000, respectively, from city coffers in 2009. In earlier years the city funded $50,000 in total outlet mall advertising dollars.
“You will see continued investment in outlet mall advertising,” said Narvaiz. “Fifty percent of our sales tax revenues are generated by Prime and Tanger outlet malls, and the importance of this partnership resulted in the city council’s decision to increase the matching advertising campaigns (for) the malls. Our collaboration results in outreach across America and into Mexico, bringing some 11 million visitors a year to San Marcos, making our community of 51,222 people the third top destination in Texas.”
Narvaiz said the city is projecting a two percent increase in sales tax revenue from last budget year.
Narvaiz assured residents that the outlet malls would not be the only businesses receiving city money for use in advertising. She said the city has budgeted an “advertising co-op” with downtown businesses.
“I look forward to seeing how businesses downtown partner with us to market their businesses and bring people from the outlet mall into our center city,” Narvaiz said.
Narvaiz said that estimated city revenues for the last fiscal year totaled $133.9 million, less than the $140.3 million anticipated by city officials. Again, she layered good news in with the bad.
“Most of the decrease we realized in savings on wholesale power cost as a result of the decrease in field generation,” Narvaiz said. “We passed these savings on to you, our customers.”
When Narvaiz noted that the property tax rate and water, wastewater and electric rates are unchanged in the new budget, the audience’s applause was markedly immediate. But Narvaiz also told the audience that future infrastructure figures to cause rate changes.
“While we did forestall a rate increase for 2010, based on our forecasted population growth, we anticipate rate changes starting in 2013 as we invest in the future of water supplies, a potential new wastewater plant, and other major utility infrastructure,” Narvaiz said. “These investments will insure that when you turn the faucet on, you will have clean water today and in the next 50 years.”
The mayor added that the city’s property tax rolls are up by $131 million, a 5.8 percent increase from last year, with 69 percent of that increase — which equals to $90 million — resulting from new development.
Narvaiz said the city council will examine a “comprehensive strategic plan” in the next few weeks to attract jobs in the realms of corporate and professional operations, health care, materials science, advanced manufacturing and supply chain management.
“It incorporates the Texas State University plan for a research and commercialization center for San Marcos that will support advanced materials research for biomedical and green industries,” Narvaiz said. “This is an exciting direction that will ignite many new opportunities for our future.”
Narvaiz said capital projects currently in construction total more than $125 million, with an additional $115 million in projects scheduled by the end of 2011.
“These projects include Rio Vista and Victory Gardens neighborhood projects, the new central fire station at River Ridge, improvements at our wastewater treatment plant, and drainage and street projects, including improvements to downtown,” Narvaiz said.
Another statement by that garnered immediate applause — so abrupt that it cut her off in mid-sentence — concerned the city’s recent single stream recycling initiative.
“Since April, when we implemented single stream recycling, our citizens have doubled their recycling efforts, sending 604 tons to be re-used and reduce the landfill waste by that amount, so congratulations…,” Narvaiz said.
On another green note, Narvaiz said the city would be receiving a $500,000 economic stimulus energy grant to help 150 families replace old appliances with energy star-rated devices. Narvaiz said the grant would also be used to retrofit city facilities to improve their energy efficiency.
Narvaiz said the city’s recent achievements include the arrival of an Academy Sports and Outdoors (which she said will open in November), H-E-B’s expansion of its warehouse facilities, Central Texas Medical Center’s (CMTC) $35 million expansion project (scheduled for a November completion), the projected building of a $29 million Armed Forces Reserve Center (AFRC) for 600 reserve and national guard members, the construction of a Grifols, Inc., biomedical facility and a “professor incentive plan” to increase the amount of faculty residents.
The H-E-B expansion entails 750,000 square feet of new building space to be added from 2010 through 2029. Proponents of the project say the expansion will create 320 new full-time, permanent jobs with health benefits. City Manager Rick Menchaca said last December 2008 that the city will refund 100 percent of the increased real property tax revenues on the new buildings that are larger than 50,000 square feet and entail a construction cost of at least $2 million, to occur over 10 years or until 2029. The property tax revenues exempted annually would range from $29,824 at the beginning of the agreement to $49,044 at the end.
CTMC’s $35 million expansion project, slated to open in late November, entails, among other improvements, all-private patient rooms, the addition of 64,000 square feet for a Women’s Center, a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and a new cardiac telemetry inpatient nursing unit.
Construction of the AFRC, to be located along Clovis Barker Road, near the future Leah Street intersection, will probably begin within a month. Grifols is to begin construction Friday morning on a two-story, 72,000-square-foot plasma research and testing facility, slated for completion in 2010. Narvaiz said Grifols will invest “some $76 million” in the property and bring 190 jobs to the city.
Regarding the professor incentive plan, said Narvaiz, “This program has proven to be very popular, with nine of 10 available $5,000 forgivable mortgage loans awarded since April. Our decision to create this program inspired the private sector to offer matching incentives to encourage and expand our single family residential component in our city. Because of its success, the city council has again funded $50,000 for this program for the new fiscal year.”
Narvaiz announced that a motion to institute pay for councilmembers is on Tuesday’s meeting agenda. Narvaiz said the councilmember’s role has changed in San Marcos due to the city’s growth. Narvaiz said there are now “multiple roles” councilmembers play in a variety of statewide and nationwide organizations.
“Last year, we held 23 regular meetings, 10 special meetings, and six workshops,” Narvaiz said. “We considered 583 agenda action items, not including the long-winded discussion items. We cast over 3,996 votes. On Tuesday we will have our first vote on an ordinance to allow compensation for the council. The proposal is $500 a month for councilmembers, $750 a month for the mayor. Members will have a choice of accepting compensation, adding it to cover city expense, or declining to accept it. So you’ll hear us have that discussion on Tuesday.”Email | Print