City Council calls $52 million road bond election

When Kyle voters go to the polls in May, they will decide whether to approve a $52 million road bond that will double the debt in the city's general fund. Or they could do nothing, an option that City of Kyle Mobility Committee member Joe Bacon said has costs of its own.

"If I keep driving my car on these roads, it's already costing me money," Bacon said. "I've had a rim on my car [ground] up on a place where the pavement drops, and I've already had my front end aligned, and it's a pretty new car."

The five thoroughfares to be included in the construction projects are Bunton Creek, Lehman and Goforth roads; Burleson Street; and Marketplace Avenue. City Engineer Steve Widacki said the intention is to turn each section into a three- or four-lane road with sidewalks.

The move to include the bond election on the May ballot came after a failed attempt to get a similar issue to voters in November. In August, with a decision to call the election looming, Councilman Ray Bryant said he was wary of the vagueness of the ballot language, which did not explicitly state which roads would be improved. Council members Samantha Bellows-LaMense, Bradley Pickett and Mayor Pro Tem Diane Hervol agreed and voted against the measure, effectively eliminating the possibility of its placement on last year's ballot.

"I had a concern that we weren't transparent enough," Bryant said. "If we're going to put this on a ballot, we need to be transparent. People need to know what the tax rate is going to be. It wasn't clear."

This time around, the Mobility Committee and city staff created a plan that laid out which roads will receive improvements, the tax impact and a timeline for construction and financing.

"I feel real comfortable where we're at," Bryant said. "I want to know what the people think."

Determining priorities

In 2012, officials hosted a series of "envisioning meetings" in which residents voiced their opinions on what issues they wanted the city to focus. The recurring themes during those meetings were road improvements to Bunton Creek, Lehman and Goforth roads; Burleson Street; and Marketplace Avenue.

Bacon said the residents' feedback gathered at those meetings was ultimately what steered the Mobility Committee's prioritization of the roads.

"Our focus always has been the feedback we've gotten from the people who live here, who participated," said Bacon, who estimated that 125 to 140 people attended the meetings. "I'm sorry if you didn't participate."

Financial impact

According to a tax impact analysis conducted by Perwez Moheet, City of Kyle finance director, the road bonds will increase the average annual property tax bill by $259.48 over a six-year period. Moheet said he took a "worst-case" scenario approach when figuring the effects of the road bonds.

"I wanted the citizens to know this is the worst case," Moheet said. "Anything else would be better news than this. If we add more property to the tax roll, we get more sales tax revenue. Anything in those arenas would help offset the tax impact."

In 2012, there were 43 commercial and 241 residential building permits granted in the city. San Marcos issued 120 commercial and 208 residential permits, and Buda issued 32 commercial and 306 residential permits.

If Kyle's tax base continues expanding, Moheet said residents can expect the road bond to have a lessened effect on property taxes. According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Kyle is expected to be the largest city in Hays County by 2020.

"When you see consultants using growth assumptions, well, no one has a perfect crystal ball," Moheet said. "Those assumptions could be on the money, or they could be way off. I'd hate for citizens to be under the impression that we're going to see 50 percent growth in our [ad valorem tax]. Well, what if that doesn't happen?"

Kyle's property tax rate is 52.44 cents per $100 of home valuation. San Marcos' property tax rate is 53.02 cents per $100 valuation, and Buda's is 27.13 cents per $100 valuation. The road bond election would increase Kyle's property tax rate by 20.75 cents for six years, capping out as the highest in Hays County.

At a City Council meeting Jan. 29, Bryant said water and wastewater rates as well as the rising costs of fuel and equipment would be issues the city would have to address—with tax increases—in the near future.

"I really believe that [residents of Kyle] have made a decision that, given all the things I've named, you're willing to stop kicking the can down the road, bite the bullet and take care of Kyle and make it the place we all know it can be," Bryant said.

Improvements to Bunton Creek, Goforth and Burleson and sections of Lehman were all prioritized by the city's 2005 transportation master plan. Bacon said if residents do not approve the road bonds, Kyle would not be able catch up with its population growth of the past decade.

"Next thing you know, we'll be talking about the 2005 transportation plan in the year 2020," Bacon said. "We're running out of options here."