Salado Village Voice put the following questions before the seven candidates for the Village of Salado Board of Aldermen. Their answers follow.
If disannexation passes on May 6, it is unlikely that a new election of aldermen and mayor can occur until after the budget process for 2017-18 has passed. Furthermore, it appears that the Village will lose $300,000 in operating revenue alone.
1. What areas of the budget would you support cutting in 2017-18, faced with the potential loss of $300,000 in operating revenues due to disannexation? (100 words)
2. Would you support an increase in the Maintenance and Operating tax to avoid cutting the budget next year? If so, how much? (100 words)
3. If annexation fails and revenues appear to remain steady, what changes would you support making to the general operating budget for 2017-18? (100 words)
4. Organize the following areas of Municipal Government in terms of importance, in your opinion: Zoning Regulation; Subdivision Regulation; Code Enforcement; Street Maintenance; Parks Maintenance; Sewer; Police Department; Municipal Court; Tourism; Economic Development.
If you could change how ONE of these areas operates today, what would it be and why? (100 words)
1. I haven’t seen the proposed budget for 2017-18 as the council has not finalized it yet.
2. I don’t support any increase in taxes. A responsible council is given a budget which should include a “rainy day” line item. This item is to off-set any emergencies that should arise.
3. For “dis-annexation”, I cannot reply as no final budget is available.
4. Tourism—With the lack of progress on a sewer system, this would be a more immediate realization to bringing tax dollars.
Sewer—This project is vital in order to attract new businesses
Economic Development–A plan should already be in place as businesses plan years into the future for expansion of Salado.
Zoning—Keeping the integrity of the historical district is critical to keep visitors coming here as a destination point.
Street Maintenance—Our failing roads are a disaster and unsafe.
Parks and Recreation
David T. Williams
My official response to all your questions for this week is: “No Comment.”
Answer #1 The loss of revenue that would be caused because of disannexation would be critical to the village and the essential services it provides. Road repairs would be eliminated, Main Street improvements would be put on hold. Any parks improvements and Keep Salado Beautiful contributions would have to be canceled. Contributions to the Salado Fire Department would have to be drastically cut back. Some employee positions would have to be eliminated.
Disannexation would put the Village in a terrible financial position making it that much more likely to be annexed by another city.
Answer #2 I would not support an increase in the maintenance and operating tax to avoid cutting the budget. The non-disannexed area is so small that the taxes would have to be increased by a large number to make up the difference. This would put an undo burden on the business community and the homeowners that were left in the Village.
Answer #3. If disannexation fails and revenues appear to remain steady, I would support a zero based budget with no new expenses over the budget that was approved for 2016-2017. I expect that we will see nice increases in sales tax revenue because of the addition of new retail stores and the opening of the Stagecoach Inn. We should also see increases in property taxes because of new home construction within the Village limits. I would not support spending these new moneys until we knew the total revenue increase.
Answer #4. Police protection is a vital service and the number one priority for any community.
Number 2 would be sewer because it is vital to the future of the Historic part of our Village because they cannot continue to operate on ancient septic systems. It is also vital to the future retail growth for the west side of Salado. New retail business on the west side of I-35 will have the greatest positive impact on increased revenues for the Village.
Tourism is the next issue because we are known as a tourist town. I would follow that with economic development where we can pick and choose the business that would be best for Salado. Street maintenance, parks maintenance, zoning regulations, subdivision regulation,and code enforcement are vital services as we control the future growth of our city.
If I could change how one of these areas operates today, it would be Tourism. I believe that we should have a big tourist event every month of the year. The more events, the more tourists. The more tourists, the more money is spent in our local shops and the more sales tax revenue for the Village. With more income to the city, services to the public can be increased.
Question 1. I sincerely believe that the citizens of Salado recognize that a financial and civic disaster would result from disannexation. If it somehow were to pass, I would not be involved in any decisions for the remaining Village as I would no longer live within its boundaries. However, I believe the remaining Village would save a substantial amount by not needing to provide services for the disannexed area, i.e. road maintenance, a reduced area for police, compliance officers and maintenance personnel, thereby cutting personnel and payroll expense, yet still generating our sales tax revenue. But, disannexation will not pass.
Question 2: I would not support an increase in the Maintenance and Operating tax at this time. The disannexation measure will not pass. We do need to be very careful in how we spend our tax receipts and I will listen to and consider any input into any portion of our budget.
Question 3.Hotel Occupancy Taxes need to be spent on advertising and events. Budget monies should be focused on increasing sales tax receipts, street repairs, maintenance of our parks and current sewer, sustaining our police department, and working with every organization possible to improve Salado. We should make it a top priority to submit applications for every grant program we can identify for which we can qualify.
Question 4.All of these areas are important. I believe the sewer is the most important project for this next year. We must obtain the final permit and begin construction without more delays. The sooner we get this done, the more we will save by decommissioning the old Stagecoach plant and at the same time allowing our merchants to operate more efficiently and attracting new businesses. That in turn will increase our sales tax revenue. We need to extend the sewer to the schools and the hotels. Their success will drive our growth and add momentum.
I’m not going to be able to answer those questions with honest and intelligent answers or information based on there hasn’t been a proposed budget. And without knowing the information the current alderman have. They are only hypothetical.
Question 4: I believe they are all of equal importance and deserve the same amount of careful review for what is needed. All go hand in hand with what is needed to keep a great balance in the Village of Salado.
Question #1: Planning around the potential loss of some $300,000 to an approximate $1 million budget directs close attention to personnel costs. Obviously, a personnel reduction would be in order. The Village Administrator staff would be reduced, our Village Safety and Security personnel would be modified to include patrol car expenses, training exercises and professional development. All departments personnel services would be adversely affected. Basic expenditure management absolutely requires that no expense be approved without it being a necessity to Village operations. Items would carry a “Must Have” label, not a “Nice to Have” label. Make no mistake about it, this would immediately create an unhealthy Village.
Question #2: As a conservative planner, I would not support an increase in Maintenance & Operation Tax. Budget reduction is a Board’s fiscal responsibility, not merely increasing tax income. In my view, “Only A Voter Referendum” would trigger a M & O tax increase. All too often, the solution to tight budgeting times is “Just Increase Taxes.” I simply do not subscribe to this style of thinking. Sound organizational fiscal planning and execution is the primary tool for providing a Village that we all desire. A Master’s degree in effective financial planning or the “School Solution” from the Harvard Business School are not requirements. We have an abundant of talent in Salado to deal with such a challenge!
Question #3: Changes in the 2017-18 Budget will be developed during Board of Aldermen budget work sessions scheduled for the upcoming summer months. These changes will be developed by reviewing input from Village Staff Department Heads, Village Administrator, Mayor, each Board Member, as well as, reports from selected sources.
Each of these planning sessions is open to all. In fact, I always appreciate attendance from interested visitors. It is also an opportunity for summer school High School students or College/University students to observe local Government fiscal planning processes.
Question #4: (1) Sewer (2) Economic Development (3) Street Maintenance (4) Tourism (5) Police Department (6) Municipal Court (7) Zoning Regulation (8) Subdivision Regulation (9) Code Enforcement (10) Parks Maintenance
The Economic Development Program can be enhanced and refined by assigning our incoming Village Administrator the primary lead responsibility. He and his current active committee members can further develop solid plans to accelerate economic development activities. Don Ferguson, our new City Administrator, has the proven skills to move a City or Village forward. This type of Village initiative will mobilize Village talent and enhance community resources, as well as, prove to excite the entire community. Our superb public school system, business district, tourist district, and recreational offerings will prosper as a result.
Let’s Be So Good That We Can’t Be Ignored.
1. However voters vote, the ideas Reynolds brings are Very Simple!
A. Live Within Your Budget!
B. No Raising Taxes on Under 65’s!
This budget is in dire trouble. The current board and mayor have gone on a hiring frenzy. A serious financial assessment and perhaps even a forensic audit to establish exactly where the Village stands financially is needed. The last year audit claims over $1 Million plus sewer money has been spent, yet Jim Reed informed me he has only Ok’d $14,000. We all must live within our budget. Perhaps new hires must go. Perhaps administration must be cut. Bankruptcy must be avoided!
2. What must be preserved are two areas:
A. Volunteer Fire Department.
B. Stagecoach maintenance. This board dumps wastewater outflow into Salado Creek, so TCEQ will levy Huge fines if we have a spill.
I also know that this board of aldermen paid the following:
A. $87,000 Austin Bank
B $65,000 Wells Fargo Bank
C.$2,500 Austin Bank
D. Every Month of 2016-17
Budget- $45,000 to Dallas Bank.
E. Current board hired a new Village Manager while still paying off the fired manager.
F. Current board hired a new police chief while negotiating settlements with fired chief and officer. Your tax dollars wasted on mismanagement!
3. Reynolds’ suggestion: retain the previous manager, Supervise her closely, and let her work off the last year of her contract. Ignored. Was this money just to keep Foutz quiet? We’ll never know. How much is the new manager’s contract? How much will the new chief of police earn? How much will all the new police hires cost?
Three big salaries have been kept private. Questions about a future budget are impossible.
However voters vote, the ideas Reynolds brings are Very Simple!
A. Live Within Your Budget!
B. No Raising Taxes and a new concept:
C. Survey the voters and Ask Them, Their Priorities!
4. Historical Zoning. Will the Hanks 3+ acres near College Hill be sacrificed to Commercial Development? Depends on the election. Reynolds is on the Historical Society Board.
Roads: $40,000 was spent on Salado Plaza Drive and this board had to repair within a year. Now potholes are appearing again! Did voters really want a focus on that road, or did someone have a business backing on that road and a incompetent cousin contractor? Tim Brown wants your county tax dollars, but would not enjoy spending on Your roads.
A. Live Within Your Budget!
B. No Raising Taxes
C. Survey the voters and Ask Them, Their Priorities!
Under No circumstances should the board add to every resident’s debt/lien on their property.
Next edition: We will talk about the sewer, economic development, and a vision for Salado with our candidates.
All of the profiles and question and answer sessions have been posted online at saladovillagevoice.com.
Early voting began April 24 and continues through May 2 at the Salado Civic Center on Main Street. Early voting hours are these: 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. April 27-28 and May 1 and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 2. Election day voting will be 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 6 at the Salado Civic Center.