by Cyndy Slovak-Barton
KYLE – Kyle mayoral candidates all talked about how to bring more businesses – and what kind of businesses – to the city during the lunchtime debate presented by the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce.
A debate featuring the council member candidates will be presented next week, Tuesday, Sept. 29. Information about that debate can be found on the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce website.
The four mayoral candidates, Travis Mitchell, incumbent, and those in opposition, David Abdel, Peter Parcher and Linda Tenorio, gave opening statements Tuesday and then answered questions during the 1 1/2 hour discussion.
All candidates agreed that Kyle has been working on its infrastructure, but the candidates voiced many opinions when it comes to what kind of new businesses should be sought, and how to attract those new businesses.
Abdel said that he wants to see more involvement by residents and he wants to address the rising costs of living in Kyle. He said that the businesses needed in town need to focus on the family, that the city needs to “shift our focus back on being a small family town.” He said he believes that small, boutique businesses that focus on what families want are important.
Mitchell, current mayor, pointed out that during his past 4 1/2 years serving the city, that Kyle has worked hard to attract businesses that help the tax base.
Mitchell said that when he joined the council, the city had an over-reliance on single-family entry-level detached homes. Those level of homes only produce about 80¢ for ever $1 the city spends.
We had the highest tax rate in Hays County in 2016, Mitchell said. Over the last 4 1/2 years, we have reduced that rate by 11.5%, and have cut the debt in half, he pointed out.
He said that mixed use buildings, with offices and stores on the bottom floor and apartments above, would be a step that is next.
Parcher said that he wants to make sure that all of the city is prosperous and that business development is not targeted into just one area of town.
The candidate said that he wants to offer incentives to small existing businesses which have already grown in Kyle. We need to address high taxes for the brick and mortar businesses already here, Parcher said.
Tenorio pointed out that she is a longtime “forever” resident of Kyle and that she was on the city council from 2004-07.
“I need to get involved again in that capacity (referring to council work) and make a few changes,” Tenorio said.
She, along with every other candidate, agreed that the downtown area needs to be cleaned up and made more appealing, “so that when businesses come here, they want to stay here,” Tenorio said.
Questions regarding their individual goals for the city brought Mitchell to point out that Kyle has the lowest tax-producing downtown and “we have the lowest sales tax collection per person” in Kyle compared to other Hays County cities.
He said that Kyle collects about $200 per person in sales tax revenue a year, while Buda receives about $300/person and San Marcos has about $600/person.
Diversifying the tax base is important to the future of the city, Mitchell said. Instead of just approving subdivisions and businesses anywhere, he and the council has tried to make sure that development comes along main roads that already have infrastructure capacity for commercial development. In that way, the investment that the city has already made in infrastructure pays off and the city does not have to put in more roads and pipelines.
Parcher said, though, that he feels like the infrastructure has not kept up with the growth in Kyle. He also said that he thought it was important to form a small business corridor so that those businesses network and feed off each other.
Tenorio pointed out that she did not feel like a mayor can just come in and change everything right away, though.
You have to take it in steps and prioritize what you want to do. “Once you do this, you will be on the right path,” she said.
Abdel said his focus is still to make the city more affordable, noting that people who grew up here cannot afford to stay. He said that the growth needs to be slowed. “We need to slow residential growth … Right now, there are plenty of homes (in Kyle),” he said.
He liked a small business corridor, a place where people can go as a family … that it should be a destination instead of families having to leave town to have something to do.
Mitchell noted that in order to bring in the small businesses, you “have to make sure to be set up to receive businesses.” He noted that the city has issued more than 200 certificates of occupancy for businesses in the past 4 years.
And, we have a big announcement coming within a couple of days in the area where Amazon will be, he said.