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Recapping the State of the City 2020

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Last week I delivered my first State of the City address at the Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce luncheon. I’m told by Kim Blohm, CEO of the chamber, that there were 300-plus people in attendance.

While this event has become a bit of a tradition, I plan to find a suitable date in February to deliver the same message at my next Mayor’s Town Hall, which will be open to anyone. For this article, I’ll highlight some of the key messages.

First and foremost, I feel very strongly that the message is really about our entire community and not just the state of the city. As we all know, 100 percent of Boerne residents are also members of Kendall County.

Further, the Boerne Independent School District serves a very large geographic area, and the city of Boerne is only a subset of the school’s students. I believe it’s critical to for us to keep in mind that we are part of a community and the interworking relationships among the various elected governments are extremely important.

And it goes beyond just the elected bodies as there are numerous companies, nonprofits, and other agencies that all work together to make our community so awesome.

Our community has grown tremendously over the past decade. In fact, the population of just the city of Boerne is up almost 70 percent during that time period. That is a simple fact.

When reflecting on what’s coming, I found that the Boerne ISD probably has the best data for estimating the population growth. Boerne ISD has used professional demographers to predict population growth for many years now, and those estimates tend to be very accurate.

So, what are estimates telling us? Quite simply put, the estimates are based largely on subdivisions and neighborhood that are already well under development. And, there are a few others that have been approved, whether by state law or land acquisition by developers.

But again, the data the demographers have is quite detailed. Over the next 10 years, the data estimates roughly 17,000 new housing units (houses or apartments) will be built in the geography served by BISD. Wow!

In general, the demographers estimate about 2.3 people per unit, and when you do the math it’s a tremendous growth line that is heading our way. Acknowledging that growth, I am certain that our already strained infrastructure will be pushed to the limits.

When speaking of infrastructure, the main things that come to mind are roads, drainage, utilities and basic services. However, when I look at the other components of infrastructure that make our community, there will be major impacts to schools, businesses, quality of life, people and the environment. The way I see it, we’ve already got challenges in many of these areas today, and those challenges will only become harder to solve the longer we wait.

To that end, I believe we have some good efforts underway that are looking at the strategic horizon of five to 10 years out. We must put solutions on the table that anticipate the growth that is coming.

At the moment, we have a transportation committee that is laying out ideas for solving mobility challenges. Boerne has a 10-year master plan that identifies several areas of infrastructure that need to be updated, and we are putting into practice an annual update process for that master pan.

Additionally, I have been working with many of the “water experts” in our community to consider our long-term water supply and demand. Several substantial changes have occurred in our community over the past four years and we need to ensure we’ve thought through the implications of those changes.

I’ll be working with the city council and others to establish a water committee to help us consider our future options. You’ll hear more about that in March.

And, after laying out all that needs to be addressed, the obvious question is, “How will we pay for all this?”

There are only a few choices when it comes to paying for the future needs, given the size and complexity of some of the challenges. We must leverage state funding for major road improvements. For many of the sizeable road projects, the city and the county can work together to share costs, demonstrate to TxDOT that we are aligned on priorities and get up to 80 percent of the costs paid for by TxDOT. The cost to expand or build roads is enormous, up to $10 million per mile.

To simply try and pay for all the required future infrastructure from current tax rates will take a monumentally long time. Generally speaking, the city’s annual budget has 85 to 90 percent for just maintaining current needs. Only 10 to 15 percent of the annual budget is what I would call discretionary for future projects. In absolute terms, it only leaves $2 million to $3 million per year for discretionary projects.

Another option for major investments in the future is the use of debt in the form of bonds. While debt is sometimes viewed as a negative, if done responsibly it’s actually what I call “smart debt.”

The last major bonds issued by the city of Boerne were in 2007 and tax rates only were affected by less than 4 cents. Remember that a penny increase in city taxes means 1 cent for every $100 in home value. The median home value in Boerne is $355,000. A penny increase adds $35 a year in new taxes.

We are fortunate to live in a community that has so many positives. In fact, that’s why so many new folks are wanting to move to this area of the country. It’s simply awesome here!

And while we have several challenges to address, I am committed to getting plans put in place to address the long-term needs that must be faced. I’ll be communicating more about these items over the coming weeks and months.

I continue to be optimistic about the future of this community!

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