Conley asserted the county is on sound fiscal footing. Brannon countered that county debt has increased 810% during Conley's time in office
Note: Here's a short take from last night's Republican candidates forum provided by RoundUp contributing writer Barbara Hopson of Wimberley. The forum lasted a little over two hours. A good size crowd, estimated at 250, filled the Wimberley Community Center auditorium. Candidates running in contested races for at least six important public offices in the May 29th Republican primary election gave opening statements and answered questions. Several current Republican officeholders running unopposed for re-election were in the audience and recognized. There were also a few recognizable Democrats at the forum, including former County Judge Liz Sumter. "I attended because there are many races that don't have Democrats in them, so it was important to know who the Republicans were," Sumter later explained. "My overall impression of the event is that the group that organized it did an excellent job."
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By Barbara Hopson
Sunday night was the Republican candidates forum at Wimberley Community Center. Probably the most interesting exchange was that between Will Conley and Sam Brannon, the two candidates for Hays County Commissioner, Pct. 3.
Questions posed to both Conley and Brannon focused on the county's fiscal policies.
Conley asserted the county is on sound fiscal footing: On his watch the county's credit rating has improved, budgets have been balanced, and several millions of dollars are stowed in banks as reserves.
Brannon replied by saying county budgets have been balanced only because the county has taken on incredible bond debt to implement necessary projects and state law demands county (and State) budgets be balanced. Likewise, it is State law that counties maintain money in reserve. Brannon pointed out the county's credit rating has improved because it does have money reserves and has not failed to make bond payments – not because of any improving fiscal practices of the county.
Like the Federal government, Hays County, during Conley's tenure, has added tremendous debt in order to finance its operations. Brannon noted Hays County is now number one among the 254 counties in Texas in amount of debt relative to total property value of the county. And Hays County ranks 6th in per capita debt.
Current taxpayers are struggling to pay on the huge bond indebtedness of the county, but their children and grandchildren will be crushed by the taxes they will have to pay because of the runaway county debt. That debt will continue to grow – and at an accelerating rate – because of 1) very expensive water acquisition projects that will be constructed over the next 20 years and 2) lavish road projects.
Brannon stated that county debt has increased 810% during Conley's time in office. Meanwhile, social services have been curtailed.
Another contentious exchange was between the two GOP candidates for Hays County Sheriff. Tommy Ratliff and incumbent Gary Cutler "corrected" each other back and forth about what may or may not have occurred concerning conditions and needed upgrades at the county jail.
Scott Field and Madeline Connor (candidates for 3rd Court of Appeals, Place 3) argued over who has more qualifications and experience for the judicial job.
All four Republican candidates seeking to replace retiring 22nd District Court Judge Charles Ramsay were present and gave opening statements: Ronnie Dickens, Bruce Boyer, David Nigh and David Glickler.
Also present were candidates for State Board of Education, District 5, incumbent Ken Mercer and challenger Steve Salyer; and the two candidates vying for Hays County Republican Party Chair, John Pacheco and Shawn Blakely.
Questions for the candidates were prepared in advance of the forum. No questions were taken from the audience.
The primaries will be held on May 29. Two additional local Republican candidate forums are scheduled April 29 in Kyle-Buda and May 6 in Dripping Springs.