Good morning, Kerr County!
How about that early evening rainstorm Sunday? That was much needed. We got video and we had plenty of people sharing their videos and photos of last night's storm. Unfortunately, it's still going to be hot the rest of the week.
On today's The Lead Live!
With Schreiner University students returning to campus this week, university President Charlie McCormick joins us to discuss what's in store for the 2022-2023 school year. We have plenty of questions for him, including how the newly adopted "Build Back Better" legislation could help the university. We're also going to dive into the recent Scottish fascination at Schreiner. We're also joined by Texas Hill Country Advisors Andrew Gay and Gilbert Paiz, who will update us on the economy and share with us their thoughts about Saturday's Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce Expo. The Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau's Leslie Jones previews all the events this week, including something fun for the dogs on Saturday! Coming Tuesday on The Lead: Former NASA engineer Jeff Stone will share with us about the 2023 and 2024 eclipses, including the total eclipse in 2024.
Speaking of events
Here are the three events we're definitely going to be at this weekend, and if you've got a family or a dog, you might want to be there too:
- Kerrville Kids Triathlon — Singing Wind Park and the Olympic Pool, 7:30 a.m. Information: https://www.kerrvilletx.com The details: Boys and girls ages 18 and under are welcome to participate in this swim/bike/run event that has launched several Hill Country kids into sanctioned triathlon events. A bike helmet is required for this event. Event sponsored by Hill Country Bicycle Works.
- Back to School Bash — The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Information: https://kerrvillekroc.org The details: This free event is open to all in the community and a great way to get the whole family ready for the new school year. This will be a one-stop shop for you and your family by providing multiple family resource vendors to help with back-to-school preparations.
- Wet and Wag — The Olympic Pool at Singing Wind Park, 5-7 p.m. Information: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov The details: Bring your swimsuit and favorite four-legged friend to the Olympic Pool to enjoy a refreshing afternoon swim. Current proof of rabies vaccination is required upon registration. This is a free event.
Want more events? Check out our 33 things to do in Kerr County this week: https://kerrcountylead.com/33-things-to-do-in-kerr-county-this-week-aug-8-13/
Today's newsletter is sponsored by
Check out the Texas Hill Country Podcast with our good friend Tom Fox.
Check out Tom's podcasts on Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Podcast/B08K5766CN
We're getting there, and thank you
We started a campaign last week to match a $6,000 grant The Lead received from the Google News Initiative and the Local Independent Online News. The earmarked money is for three areas The Lead needs to focus on are:
- Business development.
- Improvements to The Lead Live.
- A vital transition to a new content management system.
During this time, we are using all available means to raise money to grow this effort, including donations and soliciting more grants. So, if you're interested in assisting here's the link: https://checkout.square.site/merchant/MLEWCF2K4ASZZ/checkout/YE5IHXVYW4GJ5HUOOKXJDI4E
If you have questions, feel free to email me: email@example.com
The Lead's first-anniversary party is Aug. 19, RSVP today!
It's hard to believe it's here, but The Kerr County Lead celebrates its first anniversary on Aug. 19. Some of you know that The Lead's origins date to January 2021. Still, we consider Aug. 19 the official launch date because it's when we officially launched on bulletin.com.
To celebrate this, we're inviting our paid subscribers to attend an anniversary reception from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 at Pint and Plow Brewing Co. in Kerrville. We will have food and the latest brew from Pint and Plow to sample.
Please RSVP here: https://forms.gle/L6R1xN44WPNrUK4i8
We are accepting RSVPs through Aug. 15.
More events headed your way!
We're gearing up for our first nonprofit week on The Lead Live called "Forging Connections," which is being supported by the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country. We've scheduled more than 30 nonprofits to be in attendance, and we added the Lion's Club and the Hill Country Youth Orchestra to our shows.
However, that's not the only show we've got planned. Take a look at our offerings through December: https://kerrcountylead.com/the-lead-is-bringing-special-events-to-kerr-county-through-the-end-of-the-year
Businesses turned out, as did the visitors at the Chamber of Commerce Expo
The Hill Country Youth Ranch's Wynita Yancy was on hand to discuss what's going on at the ranch.
If you wanted to watch the proceedings Saturday at the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce's Business Expo there was no place better than Outback Patio Furnishing's booth — loaded with the best patio furniture in Kerrville.
And there was plenty to observe at the Hill Country Youth Event Center, where 90 businesses and nonprofits gathered to share information about their offerings. The turnout was good news for Chamber President and CEO Brad Barnett and his team, who have worked to make this one of the chamber's most significant public-facing events.
Kenneth O'Neal was there to talk about his new book on how to have a better conversation.
People wandered about, visiting booths ranging from Graham Roofing to the Museum of Western Art. Need a boost to your grit? Just stop by and say hello to motivational speaker Kenneth O'Neal.
If you needed some suntan lotion and saggy skin advice, the Precision Dermatology crew was there to help.
You could argue that not everyone needed to be there, but they were there anyway. JDS Leather's handmade leather boots are so popular that the Kerrville-based company says get in line now.
On Saturday, master bootmaker Drew Thorn was busy making a pair of boots at the expo. His mom, Susan, was busy showing off the wide range of leather and mohair goods the family-run outfit now offers at their Coronado Drive store.
"Texas has the most bootmakers of any state," Drew Thorn explained. That means attention to detail and time crafting each pair of boots, which start at $800.
Needless to say, as Drew Thorn worked, he drew plenty of onlookers to the booth.
View more photos from the day at the Business Expo: https://thekerrcountyleadphotography.zenfoliosite.com/zg/2022-kerrville-area-chamber-of-commerce-business-expo
Judy Miller, who owns Outback Patio Furnishings, said her business has boomed during the coronavirus pandemic as people took advantage of being stuck at home by enjoying the outdoors. Quite frankly, Miller's offerings are so comfortable they would be a good fit inside.
Miller launched her business in Marble Falls in 2000 and opened her Kerrville store on South Sidney Baker six years ago. It's hard not to miss with its colorful chairs out front.
However, the real mission of Saturday's event was to drive people toward business and services, including those looking for jobs. Many booths had "hiring" signs and human resource personnel at the ready, to handle interviews.
All of this comes as the economy is in a weird period, with two consecutive quarters of mild gross domestic losses, high inflation and rising interest rates. However, it's also a time when July produced a huge jobs report. With more than 528,000 jobs added in July, the U.S. has finally replaced all jobs lost during the pandemic, and there still appears to be a shortage.
While consumer confidence may be sagging, the confidence in the smiling expo faces belied another underlying issue; there seems to be plenty of confidence in the local economy.
Hold on! It was only a matter of time
For more than two years, Kerr County has planned to upgrade its facilities, including its raggedy animal shelter and West Kerr Annex, but a backlash is building.
"We the people, Liberty in Action," is planning to turnout for today's Kerr County Commissioners' Court to protest the planned bond measure — about $30 million — and salary increases for county employees. In an email to supporters, the right-right wing group said the county should only spend on law enforcement because Kerr County is under siege from illegal immigration.
"Please come to commissioners court Monday to respectfully but firmly express your thoughts about their vote to increase all county salaries instead of a targeted increase just for sheriffs and their insistence on a bond election during a recession," the email read. "While the county may have many legitimate needs, putting more bond debt on the ballot in November and voting themselves and all county employees pay raises is unacceptable during a recession."
The county's budget features a more than $5 million deficit, and commissioners have no easy ways of cutting it back, and it's facing high costs on everything. Deferred maintenance has led to more than $500,000 in needed upgrades to phone and information technology systems, and the county faces unfunded mandates from the state.
So, what's exactly on the court's agenda?
There are three things of interest, and there can be some surprises, but they are:
- Approving a motion to hold a public hearing at 9:45 a.m. for the 2022-2023 budget on Aug. 22.
- Going through the budget provisions for 2022-2023, a document full of explanations and terms of how the county will spend.
- Extending the county's burn ban for 90 days.
How Build Back Better may be felt in Kerr County
You've probably heard about the drama regarding President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Bill — a more than $740 billion spending plan. The bill passed the U.S. Senate on Sunday when Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie with her yes vote.
Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn joined all Republicans in voting against the huge package.
"This bill is just Biden's Build Back Broke by another name. It's a gift to radical environmentalists and to rich, liberal elites," Cruz said. "It uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize electric vehicles while imposing even more new taxes to raise the price of gas in the middle of out-of-control inflation and a recession."
"Despite what our colleagues are saying today, this bill will increase taxes on families earning less than $400,000 a year," Cornyn said. "It will stifle medical and pharmaceutical innovation and prevent new lifesaving cures from being discovered."
"I don't know how our Democratic colleagues are going to explain this one in November," Cornyn said.
As with everything today, the vociferous claims of tax hikes or reductions by Republicans and Democrats are hard to prove definitively. There are plenty of tax cuts, incentives and hikes on corporations and stock buybacks. However, there are ways Kerr County would feel this bill quickly — or not at all, depending on how local governments react.
Here are just some of the ways that we found:
Despite the objections of pharmaceutical companies, the bill allows Medicare to negotiate drug price caps. The Republicans said this would reduce research and development, a theory not dismissed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which said: "The overall effect on the health of families in the United States that would stem from increased use of prescription drugs but decreased availability of new drugs is unclear." So, while you may see a reduction in some prices in the short term, there may be a long-term effect of less effective drugs in the future.
Rural water and wastewater
Residents in Ingram face the reality that $19 million is required to improve the city's access to water and wastewater services from the city of Kerrville. Of course, shouldering that cost would be ratepayers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding $97 million in grants to communities like Ingram, a Colonia, to partially fund some of these projects. It's probably a good idea to get this done to ease the potential burden on Ingram and Kerrville ratepayers.
Schreiner University plays a critical role in developing new nurses to serve the underserved Texas Hill Country (pretty much every part of the U.S. is underserved), and Build Back Better intends to spend $500 million to bolster programs by enhancing and modernizing its offerings. Here's the way Schreiner could take advantage:
- Recruiting, enrolling, and retaining students at such school, with a priority for students from disadvantaged backgrounds (including racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in the nursing workforce), individuals from rural and underserved areas, low-income individuals, and first-generation college students.
- Creating, supporting, or modernizing educational programs and curricula at such school.
- Retaining current faculty and hiring new faculty, with an emphasis on faculty from racial or ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the nursing workforce.
- Modernizing school infrastructure includes audiovisual or other equipment, personal protective equipment, simulation and augmented reality resources, telehealth technologies, and virtual and physical laboratories.
- Partnering with a health care facility, nurse-managed health clinic, or community health center in order to provide educational opportunities to establish or expand clinical education.
- It is enhancing and expanding nursing programs that prepare nurse researchers and scientists.
Once again, Schreiner University falls into this realm because it has become a Hispanic-serving university — a demographic that continues to grow. Build Back Better intends to spend millions to enhance teacher opportunities and shore up research programs. Like nursing, Schreiner plays another critical role in developing educators that serve all across Texas in the classroom and in administration.
One that we were paying attention to — and one that was controversial, because it's viewed as a gift to large corporations and hedge funds — and it will offer immediate help to newspapers, radio and television stations and digital media sites (like The Lead). Those entities will receive a $12,500 tax credit for every journalist employed.
Everyone understands that health care is a big issue, and this one puts some caps on premiums. Remember, Kerr County has a high rate of uninsured — more than 17%. Texas leads the nation in uninsured, and some of these provisions are tied to Medicaid increases, which the state has rejected previously. The Commonwealth Fund, a group that monitors health care, explains the insurance situation this way:
- Ensure through 2025 that no one has to spend more than 8.5% of household income on premiums; previously, eligibility for premium tax credits was capped at 400% of the federal poverty level (i.e., $106,000 for a family of four).
- Increase premium subsidies through 2025 for people with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level; that is, between $26,500 and $106,000 for a family of four; people with incomes between 100%and 150% of the poverty level ($39,750 for a family of four) would receive basic silver coverage (in which the insurance company covers an average of 70% of claims costs) for free through 2025.