What the candidates are saying

The Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch asked our two candidates for Pct. 3 Hays County Commissioner the following questions. This is what they had to say.

Lisa Prewitt
Candidate for Pct. 3 Hays County Commissioner

Q: How would you maximize existing dollars to increase the county’s flood resiliency?
A: We must act now; not in 10 or 50 years or wait until the next devastating flood. As Hays County continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, our elected officials must follow science-based, data-driven plans to protect our lives, our livelihoods, and our limited resources in the wake of the climate crisis. We must adopt the most recent FEMA floodplain regulations, without exception, into our own development practices. With our increased impervious cover, we must conduct a county-wide stormwater assessment and utilize best practices to avoid and/or mitigate impacts of extreme rainfall events. We must restrict land development to specific zones to protect the environment’s ability to handle these extreme weather events. The new co-located emergency communications center built in the floodplain will now require an excess of $10M additional dollars to mitigate the impact of flooding, we can’t afford these types of practices.

Q: What steps would you take to protect public groundwater as well as privately-owned wells?
A: We have the potential to become an innovative leader for protecting groundwater! We can ensure that the groundwater districts and coalitions have the tools that they need to ensure safe and water-conserving wells. In Texas, oil and gas companies can build pipelines without any public or private oversight. We must have oversight to prevent devastating leaks and must work with coalitions to change federal and state laws now because we know that hydrocarbons will stay in our aquifers forever! We must stop the overpumping of our wells and develop better data-driven pumping regulations to implement nonpoint source pollution protections, laws, and ordinances governing conservation and land use. Protecting our groundwater at its source, protects both public and private wells, and I will adopt innovative development codes using “One Water” principles to implement a wiser use of our resources to help Hays County realize a green infrastructure and a sustainable future.

Q: What relief would you pursue for property owners who see their appraisals rise every year?
A: I support appraising ALL properties in an equitable manner and addressing the profound economic impacts this pandemic has had on residents and businesses during our 2022 tax rate adoption.  We must work with all jurisdictions to ensure that everyone receives the highest homestead exemption allowable. Hays County must implement a leaner budget to avoid increasing property taxes, and we must create stronger sustainable economic growth that pays for itself and doesn’t weigh on the shoulders of taxpayers. Instead of giving away our future tax revenue on large corporate tax breaks, this revenue should be invested in our public education, community health, and environmental protections. To attract new employers and prepare for anticipated growth, we must recruit companies that pay sustainable living wages and contribute to our county tax base rather than contributing to wealth extraction.

Lon Shell
Candidate for Pct. 3 Hays County Commissioner

Q: How would you maximize existing dollars to increase the county’s flood resiliency?
A: As commissioner and previously as the county’s chief of staff, I have worked on multiple flood mitigation projects throughout the county. The county brought on a grants consultant to help us maximize our share of available state and federal funds. We have a strong track record of securing outside funds, which helps us to do more without costing local taxpayers. An example of these grant funds includes our flood warning program.

Q: What steps would you take to protect public groundwater as well as privately-owned wells?
A: Western Hays County depends on local groundwater for its water supply. We must protect this supply as the source for our rivers, creeks, and basic way of life. I have worked with the local groundwater conservation districts to advance critical programs, like the installation of groundwater monitoring wells and groundwater monitoring, which helps to manage our resources through sound science. We not only need to protect the quantity but also the quality of our groundwater. This includes our rivers and creeks and recharge areas, which directly connect to the aquifer. That is why I negotiated an agreement with the Meadows Center at Texas State University to work on groundwater modeling for the Texas Hill Country. I also developed a conservation subdivision project that will study ways in which we can make new development more sustainable, which will in turn allow for more sustainable rules and regulations to better protect groundwater.

Q: What relief would you pursue for property owners who see their appraisals rise every year?
A: Property taxes are a serious concern for me. Not only do I pay them as a homeowner, I am the son of seniors who live on fixed incomes. That is why I was the chief architect of a senior tax freeze, which not only freezes the county tax rate but also the county tax bill for everyone who turns 65 years old. In addition, we now have the lowest property tax rate in 25 years, because we have lowered the tax rate to offset the tax impact of higher property values. We accomplished all of this while building our county’s rainy day savings to more than $50 million, improving roads, and conserving threatened open spaces. This good financial stewardship has given Hays County a AA bond rating.

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