For decades now, the single greatest challenge before the city council has been to properly manage the growth we are experiencing in Kyle.
The reason is straightforward. In order to properly plan for growth, the city must often install regional infrastructure — with ample capacity — years ahead of when those services come online and generate revenue. What’s more, as growth happens, our existing road infrastructure deteriorates at a faster rate while streets and schools become more congested. If the city does not prepare for and properly manage the growth, it will cause increased taxation without a corresponding increase in city services.
But there’s another side to the story. Healthy, properly managed growth can lead to new community amenities like restaurant/retail districts, office districts, quality parks and open spaces, small business opportunities, employment opportunities, recreational facilities, better-funded schools, expansion in the arts, new community programs, upgraded roads, increased pedestrian mobility, a diversified tax base, and much more. The key for Kyle is to understand what we specifically need, and then we must strategically create opportunities to meet those needs through partnerships and targeted investments of city resources. We must also be willing to say “no” when a project or proposal is not in our best long-term interest.
In 2016, when I was first elected to office in Kyle, there were many factors that I felt kept the city from realizing its potential. These problems represented systemic, perennial threats to affordability and our overall quality of life. Looking back, I would summarize the challenges we faced in 2016 as follows:
- Reliance on entry-level single-family residential development to fund city operations
- Inadequate sales tax generation per capita. For example, last year Kyle collected $202 per resident in sales tax. Buda collected $318 and San Marcos collected $600.
- Disjointed and spread out developments which requires even more investment of city resources to upgrade roads and wet utilities rather than infilling our already constructed infrastructure.
- Overreliance on IH-35 and Austin. 80% of our population commutes out of town for work. This is not ideal because local quality jobs give residents more time with family, more time to volunteer, more discretionary income spent locally, and less expenses related to travel.
- Lack of public amenities such as parks, trails, and activity centers.
- Lack of private amenities such as restaurants, hotels, and areas to shop.
- No significant industrial/office projects
- Downtown district underperforms compared to the region
- Languishing road reconstruction projects
- High city debt relative to taxable value of the city
- Highest tax rate in Hays County
In my time on council, we have addressed these eleven issues, and more, as follows:
- Reduced city tax rate by more than 11% which leads all municipalities in Hays County over that time period. We no longer have the highest tax rate in Hays County.
- Cut our debt relative to city size in half (2016-2019).
- Added more than 1 million square feet of private industrial space, totaling more than $55 million of taxable investments, with more private investment on the immediate horizon.
- Voted against and resisted most residential development proposals outside city limits.
- Increased design standards inside the city to require sidewalks, better street widths, more pocket parks, better fencing, better architecture Issand neighborhood design, all for new single-family residential developments.
- Opened the first section of our Plum Creek Trail from Lake Kyle to the Waterleaf Subdivision in east Kyle.
- Opened Ash Pavilion, a new roller-hockey court at Gregg-Clarke Park. The project cost around $700,000 with $300,000 coming from private philanthropic contributions.
- Completed eight city road construction projects totaling $39,400,000. These dollars represent the largest investment in road upgrades in our city’s history.
- For the first time in our history, we have established a dedicated, replenishing fund to perform sidewalk repairs throughout the city.
- Established TIRZ#2, a funding mechanism that will allow for our new mixed-use district, Uptown, to finally develop. The TIRZ collects 50% of city and county taxes produced by new development in Uptown to pay for 100% of the maintenance of public amenities proposed for that area. The remaining revenue generated by private taxable investments –estimated to be over $1 billion of new construction in the next 10 years — will serve as surplus to fund city operations, new public capital improvement projects, and will help facilitate tax relief for the residents of our community.
- Allocated $2.5 million in funding towards renovations of the landscaping at our historic square plus a modest 3-story building across from the Krug Activity Center. The new building will be home to a restaurant on the first floor, private office space on the second floor, and a quaint small event space on the third floor.
- Opened two new hotels, multiple new sit-down restaurants, and dozens of new small businesses.
- Closed multi-million-dollar deals for Alsco Linens, ENF Technology, Amazon, Lowes, and more, to establish logistics/manufacturing/office hubs in Kyle. Of these companies, only ENF Technology received a small performance-based financial incentive, primarily because the average wage at ENF is considerably above the median wage of other businesses locating in Kyle. ENF Technology’s investment is expected to bring the city of Kyle $598,506 in net tax revenue over five years while also bringing Hays County $401,602. Additionally, Hays CISD is expected to receive $747,602 as a result of the project by the end of the five-year agreement.
- Lobbied for and received CAMPO/County funding to eliminate the at-grade rail crossing on Kohlers as well as prevent the train from ever blocking a downtown Kyle intersection again.
- Installation of the first of four (all cash funded) quiet crossing zones to eliminate the need for the train to blow its horn coming through Kyle.
- Established the city’s first parking ordinance which, among other things, reduces fines for things like wrong-way parking from $150+ to $30.
- Established the First Year on Us small business grant program designed to offer modest financial assistance in the form of a one-time tax credit to small and medium sized businesses who locate or expand in the city.
These actions and more represent what I believe has been one of the most proactive and productive seasons in Kyle history. For myself, I have been laser-focused on bringing about long-term benefits to the city. I believe, with all of my heart, that it’s unwise to allow for growth without bringing forward the necessary investments to control and manage that growth. I think of Kyle 20 years from now, when my children are grown, and I ask myself, “What kind of town do we want Kyle to be in 20 years? A bedroom community? A city completely reliant on Austin jobs, IH 35, and single-family housing for us to survive? Some may say these things are inevitable. But I believe we can be more than that. We can be the kind of city that diversifies its tax base, targets spending to receive maximum long-term returns, and systematically and comprehensively improves our overall quality of life in the community. It’s not an easy task, and nothing good happens overnight, but we are moving in the right direction. The next five years will be critical to establishing ourselves as a stronger city in the region.