Category Archives: Local Issues

Issues faced by the City of Kerrville, Kerr County, and surrounding communities.

Proposed TIRZ Plan for Downtown Revitalization

Kerrville’s recently approved Comprehensive Plan (Kerrville 2050) calls for numerous steps to be taken to revitalize and enhance our downtown. Several studies were pointed to in the plan that conclude that a vibrant downtown contributes to a thriving community.

In order to achieve the goal of a vibrant downtown, funding sources must be created or identified to make those objectives a reality. One such plan to set aside revenue for revitalization is the proposed TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone). According to the State Comptroller’s office, approximately 313 TIRZs have been created around the state, but the number may be much higher, since not all communities report their TIRZ zones to the comptroller. The goal is to set aside “incremental revenues” for specific types of projects that would benefit the downtown area.

Please see our video that explains what a TIRZ is and how it will benefit Kerrville. All of our source material and citations are linked in the bullet points below.


Useful Links:


Additional information is available in the extended article below:

The City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 11, focused on several important topics including a proposed “Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone” incorporating all of downtown Kerrville. The proposed ordinance passed with a 3-1 vote of the council, with Blackburn, Eychner, and Sigerman voting in the affirmative, and George Baroody voting “no.” Vincent Voelkel recused himself citing a possible conflict of interest — his father owns property within this designated zone.

Council chambers hosted a lively discussion between Baroody and the city’s consultant, but a lot of misinformation and confusion was also spread. Let’s dig down into this TIRZ business and see what it’s really about.

This TIRZ proposal comes in response to and in coordination with the city’s Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan. This plan, which was created with input from hundreds of citizens over the course of dozens of meetings over nine months, prioritizes the improvement of and reinvestment in our downtown. Establishing a TIRZ is a concrete step toward that goal. The TIRZ will provide a funding mechanism to carry out the mandate created in the comprehensive plan.

So, what is a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ? Let’s start with a quick review of how the city collects money to do its jobs. As you’ll remember from our previous videos, the city gets its revenue from three primary sources: property tax (also known as ad valorem taxes), sales tax, and service revenue. Property tax is assessed on all taxable properties within the city limits. In the 2018 budget, the city plans to receive about $10.9 million in property taxes, or about 19% of its total revenue.

When a TIRZ is implemented, this is what happens… The city draws an imaginary line around a certain area of town, and they take note of the total tax revenues that are currently coming in from the property owners within that zone. That’s called the “snapshot” of today’s revenues for that zone. After the TIRZ is approved, any “extra” money above the snapshot amount is applied to a special fund. The tax rate doesn’t change at all, so there are no new taxes being applied to these property owners. But through natural appreciation of values, plus the appreciation that happens when new buildings are built or remodeled, the revenues from that zone start to naturally increase. So everything before the snapshot still goes to the city’s general fund, but all of the extra (or “incremental”) revenues from that zone go into a special fund called the TIF, or Tax Increment Financing fund.

Here are a few other facts to remember… A TIRZ does NOT affect the tax rate within the zone — it has no impact on the taxes you pay if you own property within this zone. The TIRZ does NOT change the zoning requirements within the zone. All it really does is say, ok, for all the dollars we collect over and above the snapshot amount, we’re going to apply those to a new economic development plan WITHIN that zone. The goal of these projects is to revitalize the area in the zone, which is Kerrville’s downtown, thus supporting the mission set forth in the Comprehensive Plan.

How common is this type of funding mechanism? According to the State Comptroller’s office, approximately 313 TIRZs have been created around the state, but the number may be much higher, since not all communities report their TIRZ zones to the comptroller.

Another reality to keep in mind about this funding mechanism is that it grows very slowly. The real benefits of this program may not be realized for another decade or more because of the incremental nature of the growth of the fund. The duration of this TIRZ is proposed to be thirty years, and projections show that the fund won’t even surpass a million dollars in annual revenue until at least 2027. By nature, this is a method of accumulating funding over a long period of time without incurring any debt, and without increasing the tax rate.

In addition to serving as a piggy bank to fund long-term economic development in the downtown area, the very establishment of a TIRZ is attractive to potential developers that want to invest in the downtown area. This type of funding mechanism tells potential developers that Kerrville is committed to the ongoing revitalization and improvement of our downtown, making Kerrville an even more attractive place to invest.

The TIRZ serves not only as an inducement for new businesses, it also benefits existing downtown businesses in many ways. By committing to the improvement and enhancement of our downtown infrastructure and spaces, existing businesses stand to benefit thanks to an ongoing commitment to the infrastructure that helps business get done — communications, transportation, water, sewer, and more. Existing local businesses depend on sustainable infrastructure just as new businesses do.

So what does the TIF money get used for specifically? The Texas State Legislature sets out the rules for this in Chapter 311 of the Tax Code. Projects can include roads, sidewalks, public infrastructure, demolition, building facade preservation, affordable housing, school buildings, and a few other public good projects. In Kerrville’s case, the plan includes a mixture of the following:

  • Water facilities and improvements
  • Sanitary sewer facilities and improvements
  • Transit and parking improvements
  • Street and intersection improvements
  • Open space, parks, and recreation facilities and improvements
  • Economic development grants
  • Administrative costs

The estimates shown here are just that — estimates. The city has said that these amounts and percentages may be revised in the future.

One question that has been raised is this: Why aren’t there more specific plans so that we can understand what types of projects will actually be implemented with this TIF money? The city’s consultant, Mr. David Pettit, answered that question in the council meeting on September 11.

Another term that’s been thrown around during this discussion is “eminent domain.” What role does eminent domain play in a TIRZ and TIF? The correct answer is that there is no additional threat of eminent domain under a TIRZ. You see, the city council ALWAYS has the ability to invoke eminent domain if they so choose. Adding a TIRZ does not increase that constitutional authority in any way. The bottom line here is that a TIRZ has nothing to do with eminent domain — it neither increases or decreases the ability of a city to use eminent domain.

And finally, many opponents of the TIRZ ask, “What’s the rush? Why now? Why can’t we study this further and wait to pass it after it’s been more thoroughly vetted?” The reason we should act quickly is because if we pass this TIRZ this calendar year, the “snapshot” is set at the beginning of 2018. Why does that matter? Well, the snapshot is the basis for how much money can be collected for the TIF. If we wait another year or another two years, all of that natural appreciation money is not being collected and saved for downtown revitalization. If a large building is constructed or if land values appreciate considerably, we would miss those gains and not have access to those funds for downtown enhancement or economic development. Also, as City Manager Mark McDaniel stated at the last regular city council meeting, there is no risk in implementing this now.

In summary, we believe that the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone is a positive step in the right direction for Kerrville. During the Comprehensive Plan process, the citizens stated that downtown revitalization is a priority, and this TIRZ is a step in that direction. Without a funding mechanism, there is little that can be done to help achieve the goal of a vibrant downtown. But with the TIRZ in place, existing taxes will be used more effectively toward this goal. We encourage council members and voters to support the TIRZ.

KEDC Impact Study Released

Almost a year ago, the Kerrville City Council was shaken up by the 2017 election. Two new councilmembers were sworn in: Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody. Together with Mayor Bonnie White, this three-person majority began making sweeping changes to the way the council and its boards work, and made changes to the makeup of those boards. For example, in one of the very first meetings of the new council, the White majority removed a member of the Economic Improvement Corporation that was eligible to serve an additional two-year term, and also replaced the city council liaison to the EIC with newly elected councilman George Baroody.

Mr. Baroody, from his chair on the EIC board, was dismissive of the efforts of the Kerr Economic Development Corporation, or KEDC, an private nonprofit corporation made up of representatives from the City of Kerrville, Kerr County, and other stakeholders. The KEDC is a “one stop shop” for economic development, interfacing with businesses and investors to assist them with incentives from the various government agencies. Also, importantly, the KEDC is not a government entity, per se, and therefore they are not subject to open records requests, which allows them to maintain the privacy and confidentiality that these businesses need when negotiating new business deals. The KEDC is funded primarily from EIC funds.

In one meeting last year, Mr. Baroody even went so far as to suggest that the KEDC should be closed down entirely and its functions brought in-house to the City of Kerrville. This comment immediately spurred a backlash from community leaders and KEDC supporters, and the idea was spiked. But that comment caused widespread confusion and concern, and led to the immediate resignation of one of KEDC’s employees. Then, months later, led to the resignation of the Executive Director of the KEDC, Brian O’Conner.

The current council majority continued to be critical of the KEDC, attempting to reduce its budget, and challenging the corporation over the role it has played in economic development over the past few years. Baroody and White have been especially skeptical of the role of the KEDC, and have questioned whether or not the entity is even necessary, and whether or not the city is getting a good return on its investment.

So, recently, the KEDC hired an independent firm to evaluate its impact on the local economy. Impact DataSource, an Austin-based consultant group, evaluated the role of the KEDC over the past four years on four specific projects: Mooney International, Fox Tank, James Avery, and Nature Blinds. Their findings are surprising and impressive.

These four projects pumped over $1.4 billion into the local economy, and added a total of 672 jobs, directly and indirectly. The total workers’ earnings created by these projects over the past four years is a whopping $89.3 million.

And most importantly, to counter the argument that the KEDC is not providing a worth return on investment, the study concludes that the City of Kerrville is receiving a 255% ROI based on its investment in these projects, and the EIC is also receiving a 23% ROI based on its large investment in the KEDC over the past four years.

Although the report does not state the KEDC alone was the sole driving force behind these projects, the consultants do state emphatically that the KEDC is critical to a good economic development program:

“…Impact DataSource believes that such one‐stop center for economic development services is critical to a community’s economic growth and many of these investments may not have occurred without the efforts of KEDC.”

Read the full report via the City of Kerrville’s web page at this link: https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/172135/KEDC_performance_report.pdf

Fact Check: Sports Complex

What questions do you have about the sports complex? We’ll be happy to answer them or find someone who can. Shoot us a message on our Facebook page or comment on this post: facebook.com/KerrvilleUnited


The brand new Kerrville Sports Complex opened this week on Holdsworth Drive. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, January 17, and the ceremonial “first pitch” and “first kicks” were held on Saturday, January 20. Lots of news coverage has focused on the complex this week.

In an article authored by Zeke MacCormack and published in the San Antonio Express News about the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new sports complex on Holdsworth Drive, the author writes about issues connected to the complex that are several years old and have a confusing history. Here are some of the statements from the article and our fact-checks and context that should help inform readers about the new facility.

Please note that we have not addressed the purely political aspects of the article and have instead chosen to focus on the hard facts.


TRUE: “The city estimates that each six-day tournament involving 500 players or more will generate $1 million in local economic spending — at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and such.”

  • This was stated by Ashlea Boyle, director of parks and recreation, City of Kerrville.
  • This estimate relies on official estimates from the Convention and Visitors Bureau that states at least 3 visitors accompany each player in a multiday baseball tournament

 

NEEDS CONTEXT: “The city issued $9 million in debt to cover the remaining costs of putting in the sports fields. The debt will be paid off using local sales tax proceeds.”

  • The debt service will be paid using 4B sales tax revenues, which are required to be spent on economic development projects.
  • The funds do not come from the general sales tax revenues that the city relies on for its operating budget.
  • The EIC approved the funding for this project, and council blessed it, in 2015.
  • See our white paper on the city’s finances for more context.

 

FALSE: Mayor White was quoted in the article: “I wasn’t opposed to the project at all. I was opposed to how it was funded and how the contracts were structured.”

  • Mayor White voted against the project five separate times in 2015 and 2016.
  • She also voted numerous times against the water reuse pond and reuse distribution lines that were a critical element to the success of the sports complex.

 

NEEDS CONTEXT: According to Mayor White in the article: “[DBAT] have two years’ free rent, and we have the debt service and maintenance costs to cover… We may never receive any lease revenue if they have 20 or more tournaments a year, the way the contract is structured.”

  • The lease contract with DBAT includes a clause that DBAT pays no “rent” on the building as long as they continue to host at least 20 baseball tournaments per year.
  • As stated above, each baseball tournament has the potential to generate $1 million in local economic activity, so up to $20 million annually.
  • DBAT’s rent would never be as high as the economic potential of 20 baseball tournaments.
  • Therefore DBAT is incentivized to do even more public good for the community and host as many baseball tournaments as possible.
  • This incentivization has the potential to greatly exceed any potential rent revenues the city could extract from the building.

The sports complex is officially open for business. Soccer and baseball events, games, and tournaments are already filling up the calendars for the spring and summer. For more information about the sports complex, visit the following websites:

https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/1461/Sports-Complex

http://www.dbatkerrville.com/

Sports Complex Grand Opening

The brand new Kerrville Sports Complex is officially open for business. The ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, January 17, and another ceremonial opening will be held on Saturday morning at 10 AM, including a ceremonial first pitch and first kick.

Despite many on social media that urged Mayor Bonnie White to “recuse” herself from the ceremony, she, along with former mayor Jack Pratt and Cailloux Foundation representative Ben Modisett performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Mayor White repeatedly voted against various measures related to this complex and was asked by former Mayor and Councilperson Stephen Fine to step aside to allow those that were actually in favor of the project to be the ones to cut the ribbon.

The new sports complex will have an economic impact of about $1 million annually. An estimated 3 visitors accompany each player for a standard baseball or soccer tournament, bringing visitors to Kerrville, heads in beds at hotels, filling chairs at restaurants, and a huge boost to local sales tax revenues.

This complex was built without a bond issue and without raising taxes. A large portion of the cost, including the land, was donated by the Cailloux Foundation. The Kerrville Economic Improvement Corporation (or EIC) provided the remainder of the funding through 4B sales tax revenues.

The city’s Parks Department will maintain the grounds and oversee the soccer field administration, while DBAT, a tenant within a large indoor practice facility, will coordinate the baseball tournaments.

Fine urges Mayor White to move aside during Sports Complex ribbon cutting

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was submitted for publication on Kerrville United by Mr. Stephen Fine, former mayor and councilperson on the City of Kerrville City Council. Mr. Fine is referring to the ribbon cutting for the new Athletic Complex on Holdsworth Drive, scheduled to be held on January 17. Here is the letter in its entirety, published with permission.

Aerial view of the Sports Complex on Holdsworth Drive in Kerrville.

Aerial view of the Sports Complex on Holdsworth Drive in Kerrville.


Mayor White,

The public is aware of your voting record and opinion of the Athletic Complex. I would hope that you would do the right thing and move aside so that Former Mayor Jack Pratt can perform the ribbon cutting. You were adamantly opposed to this project during his tenure as Mayor. It would be insincere to now stand in front of the town and tell everyone how great it is for our community. The coumcilmembers that voted for this project received a lot of hostility and accusations from the people in “your corner” during this process. I would hope that you would give credit where credit is due now that it has come to fruition.

Then current Mayor Pratt graciously stood with Former Mayor Wampler and Former Mayor Bock during the opening ceremony for the new City Hall. Former Mayor Bock actually cut the ribbon! Of course they all supported the project. During the opening ceremonies for the Holdsworth Drive Extension, then Mayor Smith, Former Mayor Low and myself all participated. Of course we all supported the project. Former Mayor Low and I dedicated the Scott Schreiner Golf Course remodel together upon completion which we both supported. The pressures and funding for these projects were born under the previous Mayor’s terms for which the current Mayor recognized and respected their participation and contribution to the community in the necessary leadership. The difference, Mayor White, is you did not support this project and do not have the decency to allow former Mayor Prattt the proper honor of opening these fields to the public and sharing this incredible gift from the Cailloux foundation.

As a Former Mayor I encourage you to do the right thing and move aside. As a watchful citizen, not doing so would be disrespectful to the public to try and take credit for something you strongly opposed with your words and vote.

Stephen P Fine
Former Mayor of Kerrville
Former Councilmember Place 1
Former Councilmember Place 2

City Council Meeting Agenda for January 9, 2018

The Kerrville City Council will hold its first regular meeting of 2018 tonight at Kerrville City Hall. This is the first meeting since the December 12 meeting, the highlight of which was the ousting of EIC Member James Wilson. This evening, one of the first items on the agenda is a Resolution of Commendation for James Wilson and Paul Stafford (who resigned the EIC in protest following the termination of Wilson). Typically the mayor gives out these commendations, so we watch with interest to see how that plays out this evening.

Agenda for Tonight

  • Ordering a General Election for May 5 – This is the official resolution that authorizes the May election, which will include on the ballot the Mayor, Place 3, and Place 4.
  • Rejection of all bids for Sports Complex irrigation pond – Both bids exceeded the city’s budget for this project, so council will consider rejecting the bids and re-scoping the project.
  • Amending “home occupation” in Zoning Code – First reading of the proposed ordinance that would change the definition of “home occupation” and how homeowners are allowed to do commercial business in residential-zoned districts. Apparently this item has been moved to January 23, so we may not hear it tonight.
  • Board Appointments – Council will consider appointing members to the Library Advisory Board, the P&Z Commission, and the EIC. Some or all of these items are eligible for executive session. The EIC appointments will replace the two members who were terminated and who resigned in December.

Other items include some zoning ordinances, interlocal agreements, and other matters. The meeting begins at 6:00 PM and is available for viewing at the City’s streaming portal, as well as on local cable television channel 10.

The full agenda packet is available as a PDF at this link: http://kerrvilletx.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/2857

Financial Outlook 2017

This week’s video is an in-depth look at the city’s finances, including revenues, expenses, assets, and debt. Have you ever wondered how the city brings in revenue? How much it costs to provide police and fire protection? Or water and sewer services? How much debt does the city actually have? This is the video for you. We explore the city’s finances without insider jargon.

In addition to the video, some of our members have also authored a white paper with additional information and discussion about finances. See the document below the video. This is the first in a series of white papers that will provide in-depth discussion and facts about the issues facing our community.

 

Financial Review City of Kerrville 2017 by Aaron Yates on Scribd

Turmoil on EIC

The city council voted last week to terminate a volunteer EIC board member for daring to disagree with the council majority. Mr. Wilson, along with a majority of EIC members, regularly voted against Mr. Baroody’s vote. Baroody holds a place on EIC as well as Place 2 of City Council, having run unopposed in 2017. According to Baroody, James Wilson threatened conflict with council. However, Mr. Wilson said repeatedly that he “anticipates” conflict — not a threat.

Merriam-Webster defines “anticipate” to mean: “to give advance thought, discussion, or treatment to” a matter. Mr. Wilson certainly had reason to suspect a future conflict with council, which, at the time, was busy attempting to terminate the contract with City Attorney Mike Hayes.

Learn more by viewing our most recent video.

Sports Complex Fever Broken in November Bond Elections

Although Kerr County’s voter turnout was incredibly low, thanks in part to no other matters on the ballot other than Texas Constitutional amendment propositions, other nearby communities had some important local matters to address.

I found two elections that I think are useful for comparison to one of our local projects, the Holdsworth Drive Athletic Complex. Of course, our athletic complex, which is set to open this spring, was funded without ad valorem tax increases. Our complex was funded by a donation of $1.5 million in land and $3+ million in cash from the Cailloux Foundation, and $9 million from the Kerrville Economic Improvement Corporation (EIC) via 4b sales tax revenue. So Kerrville was not asked to raise taxes in order to pay for the soon-to-open complex — we were able to create a world class facility for our youth without asking taxpayers to foot the extra bill.

However, taxpayers in Gillespie and Val Verde Counties had to make a decision… Would they abide a slight tax increase to provide much needed athletic facilities for the area youth? Continue reading

We seek to understand all points of view

The goal of Kerrville United is to inform and educate the voters about the most important issues we face as a community. Although we do express particular viewpoints from time to time, we have always invited those who might disagree with us to give us insight from their point of view. To that end, we want to officially encourage and invite Mayor Bonnie White, Councilman Vincent Voelkel, Councilman George Baroody, and others who support them to provide us with statements — whether the format is audio, video, or written statements — or other materials to help understand and clarify “the other side of the argument.” We will publish them! Or if you prefer, we are happy to host an interview. Whether it’s about the Mike Hayes contract, or any other issue that we discuss on this page, we invite a polite and substantive debate.

On that point, I want to encourage our readership to engage one another in a manner that we would be proud to show our children and grandchildren. It’s ok (and encouraged) to debate the issues, but the most constructive debates don’t include any grandstanding, name-calling, ad hominem attacks, or any other obscene or obtuse behavior. Let this be a forum to discuss these matters in a high-minded way, because we’re setting examples for our children, and we’re advertising to other communities what Kerrville is all about.

To properly educate our audience, we want to be clear that we are still actively seeking engagement from all points of view, and we encourage you to come forward and share your views with us! Feel free to reach out to me at any time.

–Aaron Yates