5 things to look for in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle in 2017

What you need to know about potential city of San Marcos, SMCISD and Hays CISD bonds

In November, Hays County voters approved two bond propositions totaling $237.8 million, and in 2017, voters throughout San Marcos, Kyle and Buda may be faced with more bond proposals. The city of San Marcos as well as San Marcos and Hays CISDs are considering holding elections requesting voter permission to issue debt aimed at accommodating growth throughout Hays County.


San Marcos bond

In San Marcos, discussions of a potential May bond have focused on new city facilities for public services departments, including fleet maintenance, parks and recreation maintenance, and streets maintenance, as well as new or renovated police and fire facilities and changes to the city’s library.

San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides, who was sworn in
Dec. 21 as the city’s new mayor, said the city has not held a bond election in more than a decade. Although the city has made investments in a “fiscally responsible and common-sense way,” he said it has also put off high-cost items related to facilities.

“We have facilities where a lot of our city employees are working in closets that have been converted into offices, or [they’re working in] hallways,” Thomaides said. “We essentially have a city built for about half the number of employees we actually have.”

If the city is to hold a bond election in May, council will need to grant final approval for the election by Feb. 17.

Voters will likely be faced with two propositions: one addressing public safety facilities and the other focused on other city facilities such as an expansion at the city library.

The city is awaiting recommendations from a bond committee tasked with identifying projects that could be funded through a bond election.

City Council also discussed bond package options, as well as a potential tax rate increase associated with bond projects, at a Jan. 17 meeting.


San Marcos CISD bond

San Marcos CISD is working with Templeton Demographics, the district’s demographer, to determine where future growth will necessitate new elementary school campuses, Superintendent Michael Cardona said. The district plans to address its capacity issues through a bond referendum.

The district’s last bond, which was approved by voters in 2013,  addressed some academic needs, such as the Bonham Prekindergarten campus and a new alternative learning center campus, but it also focused heavily on extracurricular needs, such as a new football stadium and student activity facility. The 2017 bond will focus on academics, Assistant Superintendent Karen Griffith said.

“Elementary and middle school is where we’re going to focus the effort for this bond election,” Griffith said.

On Jan. 10 members of a bond committee discussed three potential bond packages, each of which included construction of at least one new elementary school. Each of the three bond packages discussed totaled $110-$120 million.

One of the bond packages, which was heavily discussed at the Jan. 10 meeting, included a project that would convert Mendez Elementary School to include kindergarten through eighth grade. The K-8 school could potentially be modeled after a magnet school, with special emphases on programs such as dual-language or fine arts education. Exact details of how a K-8 school would function in SMCISD have yet to be determined.

Griffith said the district is committed to not increasing the tax rate.

In fiscal year 2013-14, the district’s property tax rate increased from $1.35 per $100 valuation to $1.4141 per $100 valuation. Part of that increase was to fund the bond projects.

Hays CISD bond

In Hays CISD, a committee charged with creating a bond proposal has recommended as its highest priority construction of the district’s third high school at a cost of $122 million. The second and third highest priorities in the bond call for construction of two new elementary schools that combine to cost $79.85 million.

In all, the committee has recommended $265 million of projects throughout the district to be funded through the bond.

District spokesperson Tim Savoy said HCISD does not anticipate a change to its tax rate as a result of the bond.

The process of formulating the bond was passed Jan. 9 from a growth impact committee to the board of trustees.

The district’s tax rate has held steady at $1.5377 per $100 valuation since FY 2013-14 after voters approved a $59.1 million bond in 2014 that funded, among other projects, the construction of McCormick Middle School, which opened in August.

Before that, the district last had a bond approved in 2008 when voters approved an $86.7 million referendum, which funded two elementary schools and a middle school, among other projects. That bond did not increase the district’s adopted tax rate, which was $1.4613 per $100 valuation at the time.

San Marcos' new land development code SMTX nearing completion

What we reported San Marcos has been rewriting its land development code, also known as Code SMTX, for more than two years, and completion is expected in 2017. The code will set development regulations affecting affordability, the environment and density, among other areas.

The latest The city completed a draft of the code in 2016 and has been working to respond to comments and revise the draft based on comments received.

What’s next City Council and the planning and zoning commission will hold joint workshops Jan. 30 and Feb. 8 to address issues within the code. Then it will go to P&Z for a recommendation of approval and then to council for final approval.

With Lone Star Rail halted, congestion solutions reconsidered

What we reported In August, the transportation policy board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is responsible for coordinating transportation projects in Central Texas, voted to remove the Lone Star Rail project from the organization’s long-term plan. The project would have built a commuter rail line along the Union Pacific Corp. railroad tracks between Georgetown and San Antonio. Stops had been planned in San Marcos and Kyle, and Buda was exploring the potential for a stop to be built in the city.

The latest Since CAMPO’s vote, mayors throughout the corridor have continued meeting to discuss solutions to the congestion issues facing cities on the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

What’s next San Marcos City Manager Jared Miller said although no alternatives to Lone Star Rail have been proposed, the city remains “committed to doing something” to address congestion.

“It’s a little bit hollow, but it’s a challenge to find an answer to something that complicated in a congested area like ours,” Miller said.

San Marcos, Hays CISDs prepare for new state accountability ratings

What we reported A new rating system for Texas public schools will take effect in 2017. Districts and schools will be assigned an A-F rating.

The A-F system will officially be implemented in the 2017-18 academic year and will reflect performance in the 2016-17 academic year.

The latest There will be five grading areas, or domains, said Joy Philpot, Hays CISD director of assessment and accountability. The first three will be based on STAAR scores, the fourth is based on postsecondary readiness, and the fifth grades community and student engagement.

A report detailing how schools’ and districts’ 2015-16 performance would have been scored under the new system was released Jan. 6. Most Hays and San Marcos CISD campuses received C’s, D’s and F’s in the four domains listed. For the district grade, SMCISD received D’s in Domains I, III and IV, and a C in Domain II. HCISD received C’s in Domains I and II and D’s in Domains III and IV.

What’s next Hays and San Marcos CISDs will hold meetings throughout the year to further discuss the new ratings system.

The first official ratings under the A-F system will not be released until August 2018.

Details of new 'Yarrington truck stop' proposal expected by March

What we reported In the spring the cities of Kyle and San Marcos as well as Hays County and a private developer began collaborating on a plan to replace a controversial proposal to build a truck stop at the northwest corner of Yarrington Road and I-35 on Kyle’s border with San Marcos.

The latest The new proposal is running behind schedule, Kyle officials said. A complete plan for the property was to be released in May, but gathering the necessary information took longer than expected, said Diana Blank-Torres, director of economic development for the city of Kyle.

The most recent plans include a standard gas station along with space for retail and restaurants instead of the previously discussed truck stop, Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers said. There has even been talk of a “nice hotel” on the premise, not a motel. 

What’s next Sellers said the city is working with the developer on a few design modifications within the proposal. The final design plan for the development should be released by March, he said.