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The Lead Live May 2, 2022: Kerrville roadway becomes an emergency landing strip

If you cut the city budget by 40% what are you really cutting?

Good morning, Kerr County!

We hope you had a fabulous weekend. We got a smattering of rain, followed by sweltering humidity on Saturday. Today, we're facing another threat of thunderstorms and the rest of the week looks unsettled — at best. However, things really warm up by Saturday, with highs into the 90s. Hurray!

On today's The Lead Live!

Another big show is on tap today! Dr. David Sprouse will join us during the first hour, who is running for re-election to the Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees. There's a competition for two trustee seats on the KISD board for the first time in a decade. Texas Hill Country Advisors Gilbert Paiz and Andrew Gay will join us at 9:30 to give us a market update. Paiz and Gay will become regulars on the Monday morning show starting today. State Farm Insurance agent Amber Thomason will discuss Prop. A. At 10 a.m., mayoral candidate Brent Bates and City Council candidates Robin Monroe and Katy Chapman Hanna will discuss their campaigns for Kerrville City Council.

Today's newsletter is sponsored by:

Plan your day!

Early Voting

  • 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Cailloux Center for the Performing Arts and the Ingram Independent School District


  • Moto Extreme Circus — Hill Country Youth Event Center, 6:30 p.m. Information: The details: High-adrenaline show combining action sports with the most spectacular circus thrill acts Featuring The X Metal Riders, Freestyle Motocross, BMX Freestyle, The Globe of Death, Sky masters, Pendulum Wheel, The Nuclear Stunt Girls and more.

A surprise of the day!

Motorists driving along Texas 27, just west of the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, got a fright Saturday afternoon when a small rental airplane made an emergency landing on the road. The pilot, who did not give his name, said he was making touch-and-go landings at the Kerrville airport when he lost power in the 2019 Cirrus SR20 airplane. He said he had no choice but to put the plane down on the highway. The pilot said he rented the aircraft at Boerne's Stage Airfield. There were no injuries, but it did slow traffic between Center Point and Kerrville.


Cutting the city's budget

There are wild promises about a candidate's intention to slash government spending in every political campaign. The one entered into the Kerrville City Council race is one of the wildest.

Mayoral candidate Brent Bates and City Council candidates Katy Chapman Hanna and Robin Monroe vowed, through a series of ads, to cut the city's property taxes by 40%. Exactly how they will get there is unclear.

Property taxes account for the largest revenue source for the city, but the city receives about 25% of the total tax bill — because school districts take at least half.

In Kerrville, the city's property tax collections are about $10 million per year. So, a 40% cut is simply a $4 million hit to the city's general fund. Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn raised his eyebrows at the suggestion, noting the city has reduced its rate over the last four years and hasn't increased property tax rates in more than a decade.

"What has gone up are valuations," Blackburn said of the soaring cost of housing. "If we need to make another property tax rate reduction that will be under serious consideration, but I won't be the mayor when that happens."

Since he's not running for re-election, Blackburn has watched this race from the sidelines, and he's pushed back against claims about the competence of city financial management.

"That budget is carefully developed," Blackburn said. "We have outside eyes look at it and we've been honored by the state for our budget."

However, in a heated campaign for civic leadership, promises are weapons, but whether or not they are realistic is sometimes difficult to determine. In the case of a $4 million hit to the city's budget, most of the cuts would have to come out of maintenance and operations directly supported by property taxes. At least seven cents of every 50 cents collected pay down debt service. The remaining 43 cents are for maintenance and operations.

So, what do you cut?

While the campaign suggestion is "belt tightening," the reality is far more complex because 70% of the city's expenses are personnel costs. Of course, the single largest payroll expense is for public safety.

If you vow not to defund the police, and in the scenario that we ran, it means zero cuts to public safety, that means a blood bath for some of the city's most visible services. To get $3.5 million in savings without cutting from those areas where revenues are from fees (think water), we gutted the following:

  • Cut $1.9 million from parks and recreation. To get there, we eliminated the city's direct funding for the department, requiring it to operate solely from the fees it collects.
  • We appreciate Public Information Officer Stuart Cunyus, but we cut his department. The old saying in public relations is that "it's the first to get the axe." The savings of cutting that office is about $166,000.
  • If you consider the context of today's conversations, the library isn't really that essential anymore. Cut and closed. The savings are $675,662. Of course, it also violates a partnership with the county that allows county residents access to the library, with the county providing animal control to Kerrville in return. That's probably gone in this scenario.
  • Finally, we completely cut code compliance, building services and planning — a savings of more than $800,000.

That gets us to $3.5 million, but what about the remaining $500,000? That's where it gets tricky. We'd probably have to cut three or four department heads to get there or hand all non-public safety employees a small pay decrease.

More from Blackburn

Mayor Blackburn has championed the city staff for each of his two terms in office, leading an effort to promote E.A. Hoppe to city manager internally. However, Blackburn has bristled at what he's described as the "just say no" crowd.

Blackburn said the city is in good financial shape, despite the friction generated by the campaign.

The strong — and the sweaty — dominate

The return of the Celtic Festival and Games proved to be a significant attraction last week for the Hill Country Arts Foundation in Ingram. The event was moved to the spring, so the staff of the HCAF could split up festivals — the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair remains scheduled for the fall. On Saturday, with some moist weather, more than 50 men and women came out to compete, including six-time world master's champion Michael Dickens of Round Rock.

On Saturday, Dickens, 51, was challenged by a host of younger competitors, but he put on a show with back-to-back throws of 70-feet in an event similar to a track and field hammer throw. The 28-pound hunk of metal flies as far as a competitor can muster, and on this day, there was no one better than Dickens.

Prayer for Ukraine

With the situation in Ukraine becoming more dire and deadly, four Kerr County United Methodist churches will unite for a prayer service for Ukraine at 6 p.m., May 2 at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 135 Methodist Encampment Road. The other sponsors are Hunt UMC, First UMC and Barnett Chapel UMC. A press release said all are welcome. The prayer focus will be: on the people of Ukraine; the countries, leaders and organizations supporting Ukraine; Russian leaders, military and people; and prayers for peace.

Attendees will receive prayer cards to use to pray the four points each day. For more information, call St. Paul's, 830-895-2212. Rev. Glenn Luhrs is the pastor.

Is it the blue pill, or the red pill?

They came every few minutes on Saturday — ready to dump their pills.

The Kerrville Police Department's drug takeback event, held at the police station, netted hundreds of pounds of out-of-date and unused drugs. The effort, backed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, allows cities to dispose of the medications safely.

For this event, the station's former life as a bus depot proved to be a good thing.

"They don't even have to get out of their car," said Brenda Smith, one of the department's most stalwart volunteers. (The volunteers) bring them to us, and we get this wonderful hallucinogenic palette of color."

And Smith wasn't kidding. There were pills of all shapes, sizes and colors.

This is a twice-yearly event for the Kerrville Police Department and one of the most popular community events. Sgt. Jack Lamb, the public information officer, said more than 600 pounds of drugs were taken back one year, and he expected another large haul this year.

"People started showing up early," Lamb said of Saturday's turnout. "We are always happy to be out here to take these drugs."

Best of the weekend

From Instagram, here's some of our favorite photos from the weekend:


View more on Instagram.
Got a few more. Bubba was hamming it up tonight.


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Shout out to the wife @kimbersilerio who surprised me with an early Father’s Day gift and @biglos702 for hooking it u…


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Your 2022 SCAC champs!

Thanks to everyone who came out to support! See you at Regionals #tigerpride @tr…


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Was that a DOG? Details on the blog…


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