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Candidates say tax rate big issue in District 3 race

By Melissa Crowe
April 20, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated April 20, 2013 at 11:21 p.m.

When the seat for Victoria City Council District 3 unexpectedly came open in March, three candidates were ready to fill the role.

Planning commissioners John Hyak, 53, and Jeff Bauknight, 43, submitted their applications the first day of filing, followed soon after by parks commissioner Vic Caldwell, 50.

The three men are running for the northern quadrant of Victoria currently represented by Paul Polasek, who is running for mayor.

Hyak, who ran for the seat against Polasek in May 2012, said his intentions are the same as before.

"My goal is to represent the citizens of Victoria, to really represent them and be accountable," said Hyak, the department manager for Formosa Utility Venture's combined water treatment plant. "I don't want to be in somebody's pocket."

Bauknight, who owns Crossroads Mechanical Inc., wants to bring his business experience to the council.

"There's not a specific issue I'm there to carry the torch for," he said. "I have the experience and the ability to make an informed decision to serve on the council."

Caldwell said he wants to lead the city in the direction of the 2025 plan.

"Too many people think that the City Council has to make all the decisions," Caldwell said. "Sometimes, smart government has to step back and support the free market doing what it does."

As for the city's tax rate, Hyak, who has spent his life in Victoria, said the city needs to continue to rely on sales tax to be able to lower the property tax rate.

With that, the city needs to continue encouraging and offering incentives for companies to locate here, he said.

"I'm definitely pro-business," Hyak said. "I encourage anything I can do to help Victoria Economic Development Corp. help businesses come here."

Bauknight said he is always in favor of lowering the tax rate. However, that must be balanced with needed revenues.

"As the economy improves and property values go up, revenues go up, so we need to continually look at the tax rate," Bauknight said.

Caldwell echoed those ideas.

"The best way to generate revenue is to increase revenue-generating entities," he said.

Hyak said he would be a "hands-on" councilman.

"One person takes one step, then two people take one step, and then pretty soon we're all moving in the same direction," Hyak said. "I think the goal everyone has is they want to see our city move forward in a positive sense."

Hyak is concerned about the police force and wants to see more officers hired. He said he also wants more people to have opportunities to serve on city boards and commissions.

He is interested in serving on the metropolitan planning commission and making safer traffic patterns across the city.

Bauknight said the debt is concerning.

"I'm still doing my homework in determining if it's the right amount of debt or if we are overburdening ourselves down the road," Bauknight said.

While the economy is in good shape, there is room for improvement, he said.

He said he wants to lead the city in a direction "of continued fiscal responsibility."

Above all, he wants taxpayers to be certain the council is taking care of the money it's entrusted with.

He said he agrees with the council's recent decision to not support the solar energy grant, which the former District 3 councilman fought for.

"I understand that if we don't accept it, it'll get spent elsewhere," Bauknight said. "We need to quit doing that and tell Washington - not just as a council, but as citizens - to get their spending priorities and their budget in line."

Caldwell, who has lived in Victoria 16 years, said his focus, if elected, will be on pursuing economic opportunities, reducing the debt load and restoring the integrity of the City Council.

"There's a lot of people out there who view City Council as nothing but special interests," Caldwell said.

He said he would have supported applying for the solar grant.

From his six years on the parks commission, Caldwell said he wants to support quality-of-life issues.

"Some things you can't put a financial dollar to, but they make sense to the community," Caldwell said, drawing a specific example of the Ethel Lee Tracy Park. "It can't always be about the bottom line. ... There are things worth spending money on that don't have a direct financial return."



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