On Nov. 3, Village of Salado voters will elect two new aldermen to two-year terms on the Board of Aldermen. Running for the Board of Aldermen are Paul Cox, Jason Howard and Donald Krause. Michael Coggin, current Mayor Pro Tem, will be elected as Mayor as he faces no opposition in his election.
Early voting continues through Oct. 30. There are several early voting locations in Bell County. On election day, Bell County registered voters may vote at any Bell County polling location, not just their home precinct. Precinct 203 voting will be at the Salado Church of Christ Activity Center, 217 Church St. in Salado.
We posed the following questions to the candidates for this issue:
Question 1: Village of Salado property tax rate is the third lowest of the Bell County municipalities. The M&O rate is by far the lowest of the County cities at $0.202 per $100 with Temple at the next lowest at $0.30. How will you approach the overall daily needs of running the city with such a low M&O rate? (200 words).
Question 2: Rate the following departments in the order of focus/importance that you will bring to the board of aldermen, if elected: Administration; Development Services; Public Safety; Public Works; Parks; Streets. Why do you choose this order? (200 words)
Question 3: How would you rate the cost/benefit of the Streets department? If improvement is needed, how would you approach funding this? (100 words)
Question 4: How would you rate the cost/benefit of the Police department? If improvement is needed, how would you approach funding this? (100 words)
Question 5: How would you rate the cost/benefit of the Administration? If improvement is needed, how would you approach funding this? (100 words)
Question 1: The majority of the Maintenance and Operations budget goes to salaries and benefits for administration staff, law enforcement and maintenance personnel. The relatively small amount remaining is allocated for parks, streets and all other expenses required to properly manage our Village. Everyone wants low taxes but we can’t let our infrastructure suffer. I am encouraged that sales tax revenue is up from last year. New commercial development can really be important to both property and sales tax revenue for the Village. I also think the new and improved Main Street improvements will create additional revenue from sales tax. Economic growth for the Salado area will increase property values, both commercial and residential. All of this means more tax revenues to our Village which means we can afford to do more for roads, parks and public safety.
The BOA works for you, the citizens of Salado. Your ideas and input are a vital part of this equation. The new BOA will hold more work sessions for most issues before the Board and want to encourage more citizen participation before a vote is taken.
Question 2: Each of these departments has a role in making Salado a better place to live. Today, my order of importance would start with our streets. With the exception of our beautiful, newly completed Main Street, compliments of TXDOT, many of the most heavily traveled roadways are in poor condition. Other roads, especially in Mill Creek, need repair as well. We all use these roads. The Village’s visitors that come to our many events, shops, galleries, restaurants and other attractions, including Mill Creek Golf Club, travel on these roads also. The condition of roads makes an impression on visitors to our Village, good or bad.
Parks need immediate attention, as well. The maintenance of our park areas has been sorely neglected. Recent initiatives to work on this issue have been discussed and I am looking forward to help find a remedy for that challenge. Grants and/or donations (corporate and private) would be worth investigation.
The other departments listed in the question are all important to success for Salado. The order of importance will continually change as priorities dictate.
Question 3: Without having the benefit of serving as a Village Alderman, my rating of the cost/benefit of any department would be speculation at best. I will say, as I said in Question 2, our streets should be a concern to everyone living in Salado and a solution (or solutions) needs to be found. The longer we wait, the more it will cost! There are five Aldermen and hundreds of Village residents. Your participation and ideas are needed!
Question 4: Our police do a very good job. With few exceptions, we have 24/7 protection by our officers. That was not the case before Chief Boone took over. One thing I would like to see is more positive interaction with people in the Village through civic groups and the old fashioned “cop on the beat” meetings.
The problem we will have to address in the future is how to retain good officers. Larger cities are offering lucrative signing bonuses and benefits to lure good candidates away from places like our Village. This may become a major issue for us in the future.
Question 5: My involvement with the Village administration has been as a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission the past year and a half. Through this experience I have learned a lot about how much is accomplished by our staff of three people. Besides the amount of paperwork involved with permits, applications for construction, safety certificates, variances of all kinds, all the paperwork involved with the Village municipal court and attending evening meetings of the BOA, P&Z and others, it is amazing how much gets done.
It’s not perfect. Our website needs serious expansion, our meetings should be available through ZOOM or some other application so folks don’t have to attend to be a part of the process. These are some of the things the new Board will help to resolve.
Implementing changes for any department will require a reexamination of priorities. It is not up to a single Alderman. The entire Board will make these determinations, hopefully, with the help of the citizens of Salado. We want your comments. Please get involved!
Question 1: Government, in general, should only tax based on what is needed to operate plus a justifiable reserve. It should not tax for the purpose of maintaining a bloated budget. The fact that towns around us have higher taxes certainly does not mean that we should follow suit. Its our job to work with what we have from the tax payer to properly care for our village. In the future, should any issues be identified that require more funding, then these issues should be brought forth before the public so they have a say in how the village will address said issues. It is truly wonderful that Salado can boast holding such a low M&O rate, and this is something the Village should continue to strive to offer its residents.
Question 2: Streets, Parks, Public Safety, Administration, Development Services and Public Works. The order I have outlined here is based on input that I have received by observing BOA meetings, attending the one town hall meeting that Mayor Blancett held, viewing comments from residents on various Salado social media platforms, and talking to local citizens throughout town. This order can of course be very fluid, changing based on events and the needs of our residents. For example, when Salado experienced an increase in home/vehicle break-in’s, public safety became a top concern for many. Currently, street maintenance seems to be first and foremost on the minds of many citizens. As an Alderman, it would be my job to listen to and prioritize what the people want. The views of Salado residents are of the utmost importance to me. Should any resident view this order as incorrect, I would encourage that person to email me at email@example.com and provide his/her ranking of each topic.
Question 3: In the two years that I have lived here, our roads have become worse. Unfortunately, there is not enough budgeted to quickly repair every street. While I’ve been advised it would take several million to repair our roads, I would like to see the Village procure a detailed plan identifying all necessary street repairs along with hard numbers outlining cost options (phased or all at once). Once the scope of work and cost have been identified, the public should be briefed on the findings. Demonstrating what $100,000 in roadwork actually buys would greatly aid residents in making an informed decision.
Question 4: The village is currently budgeted for 24/7 coverage. If increasing personnel is required, we should first look to community policing, establishing active neighborhood watch programs. Once established and activated, the Salado Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee could help manage the neighborhood watch programs with assistance from the Police Chief as the law enforcement liaison. Raising taxes is the easy button solution when addressing future funding needs, but it should be the last option. Instead, pursuing grants would greatly help offset costs for equipment and training as future needs present themselves.
Question 5: The BOA is currently awaiting the completion of the salary and compensation for village employees report from Mr. Don Ferguson. This report will help determine where adjustments are necessary based on cost and position/duties. If findings suggest a need to increase the workforce, I would recommend internship programs. Given the number of local colleges, our village could provide up and coming professionals with advantageous work experience with the benefit of avoiding additional government salaries.
The answers to these 5 questions are all closely related as they involve choices based on needs, objectives, and constraints. As a result, I will answer all 5 at once. The process for working within a tight budget and setting priorities is the same regardless of the which type entity is involved (i.e., a household, a business, or a village).
I posted the following philosophy for my actions as an alderman in the introductory article:
My approach as alderman will be marked by proactive interest in three areas of community concern: first, safety and security of the village; second, economic prosperity for both homeowners and business operators; third, preservation and expansion of the Salado tradition.
To assure maximum possible safety and security, I will look for opportunities to improve the capability of police, fire, and EMS services for the village. I will support any reasonable effort to keep Salado safe and provide adequate, but hopefully superb, police, fire, and EMS assets for the village.
To create the best opportunity for economic prosperity, I believe the focus of economic development in the village should be maintaining and increasing home values through effective changes to subdivision ordinances. Further, we must begin to proactively control future business development in the village. Currently, we simply react to proposals given to us. I believe the village will end up with a hodge-podge of strip mall businesses under this approach (think Jarrell).
Finally, the prosperity and the morale of Salado residents depends upon maintaining its tradition of parades, festivals, and culture. I would like to push for reinforcing the slate of events the village currently holds. Further, I would like to explore expanding the number of events held (through effective use of Hotel Tax revenues) to the point where something is going on in Salado almost all the time.
In my opinion, the two most important aspects of village management are public safety and administration. These form an equal place as the first priority. Without effective public safety, the village cannot function. Without effective administration, the village cannot function. The remaining aspects of village management (Development Services; Public Works; Parks; Streets) should be managed by considering and balancing the limitations of the budget with the importance of requirements in the area. The relative balance of importance among these areas shifts according to the particular situation at the time.
One further comment on the lack of funds available for village needs. Two aspects of the revenue framework of the village are worth noting. First, it has been the goal of village boards of alderman over the years to constrain the growth of property taxes in the village. As a result, the tax rate is low. Increasing the tax rate is an unpopular move (to say the least) for village property owners. Second, sales tax revenues allocated to village use will not increase unless retail sales within the village increase. Sales tax revenues are also constrained because of the appropriation of the sales tax revenues by the state to other governmental entities and to previously enacted taxing districts, most notably the library district which will receive over $300,000 from sales taxes next year (fully one-half as much as the village receives).