by MOSES LEOS III
In his first State of the City address since being elected mayor on Dec. 12, Todd Ruge made well known that Buda is growing – fast.
Ruge made the presentation to the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon last week, showing statistics from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Growth Monitoring Report. The report, compiled from 2007-2011, shows Buda as the fastest growing city within the Austin metro region, with residential growth increasing by 45 percent during that timeline.
“We’re a growing city. We’re a growing community,” said Ruge, who unveiled Buda’s mission statement to aid with growth, “Meeting the needs of the citizens.”
Ruge touted quite a few topics – including road improvements, city facility expansions, low tax rates and economic development – in his presentation.
He said improving existing roadways is a large part of how Buda aims to aid residents. The city has worked with Hays County, as well as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), to create a Master Transportation Plan. The plan calls for a truck bypass, which will take semi-truck traffic away from the downtown area. Additionally, Buda looks to complete a widening and repaving project on FM 967, as well as continue improvements along FM 1626.
The FM 1626 widening is a county-state project that is well underway and was passed during the last countywide bond package.
Buda’s transportation plan also contains improvements along the service road of Interstate 35. New entrance and exit ramps, as well as planned “Texas Turnarounds” are in the works, which will create easier access to IH 35.
“This is exciting news,” Ruge said. “This would bring some relief for our roads.” However, he cautioned, “This is going to take some time. This will not happen overnight.”
Another Buda project underway deals with safety, Ruge said. Within the past year, Buda has hired four new police officers, purchased additional vehicles for law enforcement, and has streamlined ticketing with an electronic system. It was the need for more officers that was of large importance with Ruge.
“As our population grows, we need to add more officers. We want to stay as close as we can to national, state and local averages (of police officer per population ratio).”
Another safety program comes from a federal grant to create the “Safe Route to School” program. The goal aims to fix sidewalks and walkways around area schools. “This is going to help beautify the area,” Ruge said. “Most importantly, it gives our children a safer route to school.”
Continued community development remains a focal point for the city in the coming year. In 2011-12 fiscal year, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) gave out $20,000 in Buda improvement grants to revamp the downtown. In addition, maintaining downtown code compliance is a priority for a city that has seen tourism jump recently.
Ruge announced the hiring of Andrew Simski as the new Parks and Recreation director for the city. Simski will oversee the city park expansion. In the master plan, Buda’s improved park proposes an amphitheater, swimming pool, fishing pond with pier, disc golf course, an improved trails system and overhauls in parking space.
Plans for expanding the city library are also in the works. “For a city our size, we need a larger library,” Ruge said.
An LED marquee is also planned for the city. Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC), which recently discontinued banners along power lines, will pay up to $25,000 for the display to be located near the intersection of Old San Antonio Road and North Loop 4.
Ruge said that maintaining low property taxes in Buda is one of the city’s draws. Buda’s current property tax is 27¢ for every $100, which is 48 percent lower than other cities along the I-35 corridor.
Ruge said the city has kept the property taxes low by seeking out grant money, as well as keeping maintenance projects “in house.” Buda has received $39.5 million in state and federal grants for transportation, sewer/water as well as parks and public facilities. These additional funds have helped save $2.45 million from the public works department.
Road improvement in the Sequoyah neighborhood as well as maintenance of the pond in Stagecoach Park have also been done by the city, saving Buda the need to go through any bid process.
“If you look at any city along the I-35 corridor, Buda has the lowest property tax rate. This is very appealing for new businesses to come in and to expand,” said Ruge, who pointed to 24 businesses in the city that are new or have expanded in the past year. “(Buda) is a good place to have a business; (businesses) have the ability to grow.”