Transportation and taxes were hot topics in a debate between Jimmy Skipton and Walt Smith, who are vying for the Republican nomination in the Hays County Pct. 4 Commissioner race.
Skipton, a longtime Dripping Springs resident who serves on the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board, said transportation is “huge for us” in Pct. 4, based on growth.
Skipton said the county should work with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to assist with financing, while also looking at “any and all financing to get some better roads out there.” Skipton said the county has to keep working on water quality when it comes to transportation, and advocated for an increase in rainwater collection.
Smith said he plans to bring in multiple stakeholders to assess how to balance transportation improvements with protecting resources.
On whether they support maintaining or adjusting the county’s tax rate, Smith said Hays County has been fortunate for individual county taxes, but there is room for improvement.
Smith said he plans, if elected, to “look outside of the box” to find ways to help residents save on their tax bill. Smith said the county “owes it to citizens” to take a hard look at options other than tax freezes.
Skipton pledged he would not raise taxes and said he was “tired of them.” Skipton said the county must be “more conservative with our numbers.”
However, both Skipton and Smith agreed on ensuring every vote is counted in elections and improving the county’s election system. Both men advocated for a paper trail ballot system, along with an electronic ballot.
Smith said he’d add a caveat to avoid adding a serial number to paper ballots.
On whether the two would consider cutting ties with their current jobs if elected, Skipton said he would “quit that job immediately and do this.” Skipton said the role of commsisoner is a “24-7 job.”
Skipton works with Whim Hospitality in Dripping Springs.
Smith said he would take a step back from his consulting firm, but said he would not sell his business.
Smith cited the state’s founders who he claimed wanted Texas to be run by people who are in business and deal with every day issues.
“I’m not going to turn down the paycheck, but I’m more than happy to keep my businesses,” Smith said.
Both also supported the potential for redrawing a more compact Pct. 4 boundary, if they are elected. Whomever claims the Pct. 4 seat will have to deal with redrawing the boundaries following the 2020 Census.
However, Smith said population will ultimately determine where the line is drawn.
Skipton said he supports redrawing the line, which includes Henly, Dripping Springs and parts of Kyle and San Marcos.
“Having the university in my precinct doesn’t make sense,” Skipton said. “Students in San Marcos do not have the same problems Dripping Springs people have.”