The future of representation in Buda is an item city voters will decide on when they take up a busy ballot next month.
On Nov. 7, voters will choose whether the Buda City Council should transition from an at-large format to possibly six single-member districts with an at-large mayor.
The topic of transition to single member districts is among 18 proposed changes to the Buda City Charter that were approved by council members Aug. 1.
Ron Fletcher, the chairman of the Buda Charter Review Committee, said Aug. 1 the reason for changing to single member districts is to allow for better representation across the city.
Under the current format, Buda council members are voted on an at-large basis, which allows for all residents to vote in an election. With single member districts, voters can only cast a ballot in a race that’s in their district.
If the measure is approved, Fletcher said Aug. 1 the city would begin with a hybrid model of three at-large, three single member council members and the mayor.
Buda’s Charter Review Committee felt the city could move to six single member district seats and an at-large Mayor when the population reaches 25,000 people.
“As a growing city, we need to do this to avoid overrepresentation in one area,” Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said regarding the decision to switch from an entirely at-large council.
Buda remains one of the few major cities along the Interstate 35 corridor to have an entirely at-large format.
Kim Hilsenbeck, Kyle communications specialist, said Kyle’s city council is a hybrid of at-large and single-member district seats.
Three city council members are chosen on an at-large basis, while the city also has three single-member district seats. The city’s mayoral seat remains in an at-large format.
“Each city should carefully evaluate the decision to enact single-member districts, at-large seats or some hybrid combination as we have in Kyle to determine what structure will best meet the needs of the city and its residents,” Hilsenbeck said.
Todd Webster, the mayor of Kyle, said he supports single-member districts in order to ensure diversity in representation. However, he recommends that Buda city staff be very attentive to how district lines are being drawn.
“If lines (district) are drawn correctly, you can get diversity in representation,” Webster said.
John Hatch, co-chairman of Buda’s Charter Review Committee, said potentially establishing the six single-member voting districts could ensure more equal representation.
“The bottom line is, we felt it would be better to have all single member districts versus a hybrid system,” Hatch said.
Ruge agreed that once a population of 20,000 is reached in any city, switching to single member districts is a good idea.
“Single member districts equal more representation and I don’t see why anyone would be against this,” Ruge said.
Hatch said that the population stipulation would award 5,000 voters to each council member, which would allow more direct representation from all corners of Buda.
“The more you allow people to choose candidates/representatives from their own neighborhoods, the better representation you will get,” Hatch said.