After reading the letter to the editor “Elect Kenny Weldon for mayor” in the April 29 edition, I found myself scratching my head asking if it was correct. So I went to work trying to verify the numbers.
Statement & Fact Check 1 – Stephenville had a “… population decrease from 2010 to 2011.”
The first item I checked was the 2012 Population Estimates from the North Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG) that includes 16 counties in the DFW area. A NTCOG study was cited in the letter. On page 2 of the March 2012 report, Stephenville is listed as one of the Top 10 Cities for Estimated Population Growth for 2011-12. According to the report the 2010 census population was 17,123 (not 15,000). NTCOG estimates that the population increased in 2011 to 17,480 and increased again in 2012 to 18,290, a growth rate of 4.6%. Based on this information our mayor cannot be blamed for a declining population within the city since, in fact, Stephenville continues to grow.
Statement & Fact Check 2 – “Stephenville High School was downgraded from 4A to 3A as a result of loss of students.”
I checked the UIL website at www.uiltexas.org for athletic Realignment and Reclassification information and with a little digging I found that the 2010-12 alignment was based on a cutoff number of 990 while the 2012-14 alignment cutoff number was increased to 1005. Since the rank order of schools shows Stephenville High School reported 999 students (a decrease of 34 students from 2010 alignment), SHS would have remained 4A if the cutoff had not been increased. Again, our current mayor cannot be blamed for causing our high school to be reclassified to compete as 3A size school. Additionally, the mayor has no authority over SISD and should not be held responsible for families who choose to have their children attend an alternate district.
Statement & Fact Check 3 – “Our property tax rate had to be raised recently, a result of decreasing revenue…”
I contacted the County Appraisal District office and found that they are required to submit a certification report to the State of Texas every July. Those reports show that the taxable value of property within the City of Stephenville for 2009 was $894,236,300. For 2010 the taxable value was $882,532,413 and increased to $895,519,294 in 2011. One item that I never considered is that much of the tax base is business taxes and therefore affected by inventories and general economic issues. I also contacted the City of Stephenville and requested historic information on sales tax revenue and found that after a two year slump, 2011 revenues exceeded 2008 revenues by almost $15,000 and were $345,000 more than the amount collected in 2007. Again, our mayor is not to blame for decreasing tax revenues.
Fact Check 4 or Dissect the numbers
The writer makes the case that Mr. Weldon is qualified to be mayor because he has “experience managing a base of 100,000 people with a budget of $400,000,000 (compared to Stephenville’s approximate 15,000 population and $24.4 million budget).” A simple breakdown of those numbers shows that, if correct, Colonel Weldon was spending $4,000 per person from federal tax dollars while the city of Stephenville’s budget represents less than $1,500 per person (using the 2010 census, not the approximate 15,000 cited). The mayor and city council members must face the people who pay these taxes every day and then ask for their vote to have the privilege of spending every Tuesday night together trying to decide what’s best for Stephenville.
I do not know the writer of the April 29 letter or Kenny Weldon personally or anything about their relationship. I’m sure that the writer believed his statements to be true but from the facts I’ve gathered they don’t hold water. If you are making your decision based on the facts then the facts would suggest that Mayor Hunter and the council members have earned another term in office. For me, I will be voting for Mayor Hunter because I have observed a change in the way city government functions over the past four years. We have moved from a dysfunctional group whose major accomplishment was building a pipeline to Lake Proctor (the citizens voted against the pipeline in a bond election) to a group that thoroughly discusses issues with civility and respect. Whether you agree with the final decision or not, Mayor Hunter and the current council should be commended for their approach to solving problems and the process by which they have worked together to reach decisions. I hope that you will excuse the length of this letter since it takes more space to dispel inaccuracies than to state your opinion.