Taxes, high water bills, sidewalk improvements and transportation were a few of the topics addressed by candidates at Monday’s Kyle city council candidate forum.
The event, held at the Plum Creek Community Center, featured candidates running for mayor and council seats 1 and 4. Tracy Sheel, a candidate running unopposed for the District 2 seat, made a statement before the debate, but didn’t participate.
In the race for the seat left vacant by mayoral candidate Travis Mitchell, candidates Dex Ellison and Marco Pizaña fielded a question about increasing water bills in the city.
Pizaña, a career coordinator for Hays CISD, said as a council member he would look at possible issues with meter readings and look to collaborate with city officials, like the city manager, to bring costs down.
Dex Ellison, a financial representative, said he would explore whether consolidating water provider options may reduce the price. The stress that a new development creates on utilities like water ought to fall on the development, and not on existing residents, he said.
When asked if Kyle is growing too quickly, Ellison said the fact is people are moving to town and it’s better to prepare and plan for growth. He said making sure there are parks in place and diverse homes for various socioeconomic backgrounds is important.
Pizaña, who felt Kyle was growing too quickly, said he enjoys sustainable growth. Investment in infrastructure is important and used Old Town Kyle as an example of needed upgrades.
One solution is to work with developers to prevent building in areas prone to flooding.
Ellison agreed with the need to examine where developers build homes to avoid the floodplains.
Kyle’s sidewalk ordinance came up in the debate between District Four candidates Alexander Villalobos and Tim McHutchion.
Villalobos, a Texas State police officer, said Kyle should do a better job of enforcement of sidewalk repairs, but also said there needs to be more input from residents.
McHutchion, a businessperson, said the city should take on more responsibility for sidewalk upkeep.
Both also fielded a question on whether there are too many apartments in Kyle.
Villalobos said there is a need for balancing commercial growth with affordable housing. He added some employment centers in Kyle don’t provide a living wage, and therefore some people can’t live in the city.
McHutchion said Kyle needs more supportive housing, not necessarily affordable housing. He said for many families moving to Kyle, an apartment is a good transition to owning a home in Kyle.
Travis Mitchell, along with candidates Nicole Romero-Piche and Bill Sinor, attended the debate, while Jaime Sanchez, who is also in the race, did not attend.
On a question of how to increase revenue without increasing taxes, Mitchell, a business owner and current city council member, said it’s important that developers pay the bill for infrastructure costs associated with their projects.
Romero-Piche, an Austin teacher, said increasing sales tax and attracting more higher and middle-income jobs would be her solution.
Sinor, a mediator and consultant, said, “We are giving away the farm.”
When it came to transportation, Sinor said there ought to be a public transportation option and residents should be able to take a bus.
It is important to be fiscally responsible when thinking about bringing in a transportation system, Romero-Piche said.
Mitchell did not see a bus system as the best fit for the demographics of the city.
Kyle’s proposed, and controversial, Blanco-Nance Bridge also was a point of discussion for the candidates.
Sinor found the timing not ideal for the bridge proposal and was concerned that there were not more people involved in the planning.
Mitchell said there are no worries about paying more taxes to build the bridge, as it would be paid through a tax increment zone.
Romero-Piche said the city loses money in the tax increment zone for the bridge.
All candidates also fielded varying questions on alleged corruption in the city.
No matter how the candidates answered, all gave similar responses on increasing accountability, transparency and communicating with public officials.