By Moses Leos III
Taxes, business development and infrastructure topped the questions to Kyle City Council candidates at last week’s forum at the Kimbro Building hosted by Hays County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Beth Smith.
Five of the six candidates attended the forum and took submitted questions from the general public.
Candidates Laurie Luttrell and Damon Fogley and Jaime Sanchez, made their points during the first forum for the District 5 seat.
Fogley said the city has previously had “band aid solutions to reduce debt.”
He said bolstering the tax base through commercial development, not only residential development, is also important. His plan is to create long-term solutions to where Kyle becomes a place where citizens can live, work and play.
Adding to the entertainment district, along with more retail and light industrial employers are needed.
Finding more money for economic development was a focus, along with providing incentives to businesses. Making the city more business friendly, along with making it easier for new business owners, was also a point of emphasis for Fogley.
“Some of these companies won’t come here if they won’t give them incentives,” he said.
When it came to safety issues, such as sidewalks, Fogley championed the idea to have developers foot the bill for the cost.
“If we haven’t done them, let’s do them right, or get other people to pay for them,” he said.
While the city won’t be able to keep growth from happening, Fogley said the city hasn’t kept up with growth. He said the city is “behind the curve” on police officer staffing.
Luttrell, who is vying for a council seat for the second time in as many years, touted her past as a small business owner to help business in Kyle.
She also expressed a concern about roads and how the city’s road bond projects are over budget. For Luttrell, maintaining current and planning for future infrastructure is important.
“That’s huge to me,” she said. “If we see another Bunton Road, it would be sad for Kyle.”
Luttrell said ensuring city departments keep their budgets and “spending what they have been allocated” would help reduce the city’s debt. Working within the city’s budget could help the city lower taxes.
She said larger businesses would eventually set up in Kyle, but they could need incentives.
Rewriting ordinances to require developers to shoulder “at least partial, if not all” construction of sidewalks could alleviate the issue in neighborhoods.
Both Luttrell and Fogley saw eye-to-eye on partnering with non-profits to help the city. Fogley referenced the city’s previous exploration of the YMCA managing the pool and a possible recreation center.
“What we need to do is to partner with non-profits and find not the cheapest way, but the cost effective way to do things,” Fogley said.
Sanchez believes his experience in construction and engineering, specifically contract negotiations and design, would come in handy if he were elected. Sanchez previously served one term on the Kyle Council.
He lost in 2014 to incumbent Becky Selbera by six votes.
Allowing business incentives is a factor Sanchez believes could help the city. Sanchez said he didn’t “agree with incentives that have been passed to date,” but he did believe they were necessary.
“I do believe in incentives to bring in economic development to offset the taxes of the citizens,” he said.
Using “free funds from the state” when applicable could alleviate sidewalk issues, according to Sanchez.
When asked about safety for students walking along FM 2770 to Hays High, Sanchez said there was $770,000 for funding that the city hasn’t been able to dip into.
For other projects, Sanchez hinted at hiring staff to complete sidewalk projects. He said it doesn’t take “a lot of staff” or “a lot of heavy equipment” and could be “less expensive and less burden for us.”
Looking at the budget, and finding where the city could cut expenses is key for Sanchez. He referenced the city’s proposed $26 million budget, saying the city must make sacrifices.
“There are other priorities that are staring at our face right now, which is roads and infrastructure,” Sanchez said.
Two of the three candidates vying for the District 6 seat, held by incumbent Tammy Swaton, led off the debate. Swaton took questions alongside Daphne Tenorio, one of two challengers. Dex Ellison could not attend due to a previous conflict.
Tenorio focused on making Kyle a “great place to live” and to keep the city affordable for citizens.
But she addressed the state of Kyle roads, which she said “aren’t very good.” Tenorio said she’s seen the signs for the impending road bond projects, but that she “hasn’t seen much more.”
Improving Kyle roads, along with securing water and wastewater infrastructure, were points she thought could sustain higher paying jobs in Kyle.
“We need to secure that water and wastewater infrastructure before we can bring big business in,” Tenorio said.
Having police officers work with the community could “build a bridge” with citizens. Tenorio believes that could help limit an anticipated increase in crime in the next five years.
She also believes working with and helping small business is important to the city as those businesses give Kyle “uniqueness.” She also believes it could help reduce tax burden on citizens. She mentioned streamlining city fees and continuing grants as important avenues.
For Tenorio, bringing a “small business incubator” could help the city’s economy, as would increased funding for the city’s Economic Development department.
“We don’t know if the next Michael Dell is living in Plum Creek,” Tenorio said. “An incubator would assist them in developing a business and I’d like to see that implanted into Kyle.”
Swaton focused on the progressive stance during her time on the Kyle City Council.
She said council has brought road issues forward. She referenced the city’s move from bringing the road bonds from a “standstill” to moving “far along in design” and moving forward with right-of-way acquisition. She also said the city has dealt with infrastructure issues, and is “extending those and bringing those out to place and communities.”
But for Swaton, infrastructure, water and transportation are what will drive business to Kyle.
According to Swaton, the city has been working with small and large businesses. She also said large businesses could help bring smaller businesses. That extends to placing infrastructure to all business types.
“We do everything we can to bring all businesses,” Swaton said. She later added, “They (businesses) are interested in us, but we need to give them something to go with.”
When asked about safer sidewalks for students, Swaton said more sidewalks are needed and that it’s something council could look at. Swaton, however, said finding funding for sidewalk improvements is the next step.
“It’s an exciting time to be on council right now,” Swaton said. “We have done so much and there is still so much to do.”