LAMPASAS — The three Republican candidates for the Texas House District 54 primary in March gathered for a candidates’ forum hosted by the Lampasas County Republican Party Thursday at the Lampasas County Annex.
However, with about 60 residents packed into the room, the candidates were only given a few minutes to make their pitch to possible voters.
The moderator for the forum, former Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin, asked incumbent Rep. Scott Cosper, a former mayor and councilman in Killeen, Dr. Brad Buckley, a Killeen veterinarian, and Larry Smith, a retired U.S. Army captain, for their political and professional backgrounds, their plans to tackle property tax reform and their plans to handle a diverse district that stretches from central Bell County to the far western edges of Lampasas County.
On property tax, the candidates largely doubled down on their previous statements to the Herald, calling for more transparency in property appraisals, a lower cap on property tax rate increases and a reworking of the public school financing system.
Buckley, a former Killeen school district board member, said school financing was a top priority but advocated local voters getting engaged with their county tax appraisal districts and local governments.
“We need to properly fund our local school districts,” Buckley said. “But if you take your problems to Austin, you lose power as a local citizen.”
Cosper, who is serving in his first term at the Capitol, said he planned to propose appraisal reform that would cap all appraisals at a 15 percent annual increase. State law currently caps homestead appraisal increases at 10 percent, while commercial property appraisal increases have no cap.
Smith outlined his two-pronged approach to property tax reform, including freezing property appraisals at point of purchase and redirecting a portion of consumer sales tax back to local governments.
“It should be locked,” Smith said of property appraisals. “That will not only allow you to budget, it will force local governments not to go back to the trough for revenue.”
The District 54 candidates will next meet at the Herald’s candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, 3601 S. W.S. Young Drive.
Democrat Kathy Richerson will also be in attendance.
At Thursday’s forum, candidates for a slew of county races were also in attendance to introduce themselves, outline their plans for the seats and separate themselves from their competitors.
Those races, with the candidates, included:
Lampasas County Judge: Larry Allison, Greg Crawford and Randy Hoyer.
District Clerk: Trina Hudson, Edith Wagner Harrison and Cody Reed.
County Treasurer: Melissa Karcher and Sharon Watson.
County Commissioner Precinct 2: Jamie Smart, Ron Farr and Chris Harrison
County Clerk: Sharon Fortner and Connie Hartmann.