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Petition stops debt for Kerrville public safety building

With more than 1,000 signatures, "Let Us Votes" forces a general obligation bond vote to house police, fire administration and municipal court.

As expected, a citizen petition squashed the Kerrville City Council's plans to issue certificates of obligation to pay for a new public safety building.

On Monday, Kerrville City Secretary Shelley McElhannon confirmed that "Let Us Vote" had registered enough signatures to force the City Council to place public safety building onto a ballot sometime next year.

It was a significant victory for the grassroots group that urged the City Council to vote on all debt moving forward. In turn, four of the five City Council members have said this is a setback for the project. Only Councilman Roman Garcia has not formally stated a position on the matter. He did issue a press release last week saying he supported the democratic process of the petition drive.

Mayor Bill Blackburn said the matter was an urgent priority, but "Let Us Vote" blamed Blackburn for not prioritizing projects.

As part of issuing certificates of obligation, 5% of the electorate can stop it by signing a petition. The group needed just 825 signatures to stop it. They got 1,073.

On Tuesday night, the City Council was expected to vote to issue the bonds — something they could have done without voter approval. Now that effort is off, and city officials said the earliest they can hold a general obligation bond election would be in May of next year. In a news release, the city said that a vote would have to wait until next year since it received the petition after the deadline to place it on the November 2021 ballot.

Blackburn, among others, said he was concerned that delaying the project to replace the police station, fire administration and municipal court would make it more expensive. Part of the strategy of issuing certificates of obligation is the city can utilize low-interest rates and multiple revenue streams, including property and sales taxes.

However, with the issuance of a general obligation bond, it's precisely as it reads — everyone is generally obligated to pay for it through property taxes. And the City Council may raise those property taxes to service the debt.

Currently, the city houses the police station in an old bus station along Sidney Baker Highway. The fire department rents space on Coronado Street for its administration, and the municipal court is at a temporary location on McFarland Street.

The City Council will hold a work-study session at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss workforce housing. The regular meeting will continue at 6 p.m. The main highlight will be a first reading on the city's $79 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.


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