Best of 2022: 18 front-page stories from New Braunfels

As 2023 approaches, take a look back at Community Impact’s 2022 front-page coverage of the acquisition of the Union Pacific rail yard property downtown, staffing struggles in local school districts, New Braunfels housing insecurity, soaring utility rates and more.

JANUARY: Newly Redrawn electoral maps split New Braunfels from 3 ways to 4 in Congress

Representation for New Braunfels residents in Congress will be split four ways under new maps approved during the third special session of the 87th Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott following the results of the 2020 census.

Most of Comal County will remain in District 21 along with a narrower split of District 35 than the previous map. The Guadalupe County side of the city will be split between two districts both stretching to the U.S.-Mexico border.

FEBRUARY: Local nonprofit organization assumes regional foster care placement responsibilities

In December, 216 children across the state were awaiting placement while in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

A shortage in foster homes and available beds at emergency shelters has contributed to ongoing difficulties faced by officials in providing services to children in the foster care system.

MARCH: Historic educator staffing challenges impact New Braunfels school districts

For Cassandra Dubay, a life skills teacher at Klein Road Elementary School, recent staff shortages have made it difficult to meet the needs of her students.

The life skills program is tied to the New Braunfels ISD special education program and teaches functional communication and academic skills. Because her students require additional support in the classroom, Dubay said the challenge to find consistent staff has been taxing on her and her students.

APRIL: New Braunfels organizations address housing insecurity as prices soar

Efforts to bolster services for individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness are growing in New Braunfels as the cost of living continues to rise locally.

Area nonprofit organizations are working to meet the needs of a community that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many residents by developing short-term emergency housing, connecting individuals to long-term residential options and operating programs aimed at ending the cycle of homelessness through employment and financial planning assistance.

MAY: City pens deal to move Union Pacific rail yard out of downtown New Braunfels

On April 11, the New Braunfels City Council unanimously approved an expenditure of $2.18 million from the New Braunfels Economic Development Corp. as part of an agreement to acquire the Union Pacific rail yard property located on South Castell Avenue.

This recently approved agreement has paved the way for future developments in the downtown area following several years of negotiations between Union Pacific and area officials, said Jeff Jewell, director of economic and community development for the city.

JUNE: Mental health needs among children on the rise

In 2021, more than a third of high school students surveyed in the U.S. reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data from the CDC also showed that, compared to 2019, the proportion of emergency department visits that were related to mental health increased by 24% among children ages 5-11 and 31% among youth ages 12-17 in 2020.

JUNE: Direct pay for mental health care eclipses insurance payments

For patients seeking access to mental health care and counseling, the burden of getting the cost covered can prove daunting.

According to the American Psychological Association, 30% of psychologists do not accept insurance, requiring the patient to petition their insurance provider to pay them back all or at least a portion of what they paid out of pocket for care. As many independent practitioners do not hire office staff, many forgo dealing with insurance claims altogether.

JULY: Commercial development races to keep up with growth

As the population of Hays County continues to grow at a rapid pace, so does investment and construction in commercial real estate.

At the same time, a very low rate of vacancy in some areas of commercial real estate, such as industrial and retail, is putting pressure on developers to build more in and around the I-35 corridor to bring increased options for businesses.

JULY: New Braunfels works to unify development codes

In New Braunfels, city officials and community leaders are beginning the next phase of a project to unify, simplify and clarify the city’s existing development, preservation and planning codes.

Once complete, the project will provide residents and industry professionals with clear guidelines for new and existing developments that align with community priorities in the city, according to the city.

AUGUST: Vocational options grow in local high schools

Over the past few years, New Braunfels ISD and Comal ISD have seen growth in high school student participation in career and technical education, or CTE, courses and certifications.

Unlike traditional high school courses, these programs provide a more technical knowledge base for specific professional fields and practical training and certification that helps students hone in on specializations earlier in their careers, according to the Texas Education Agency.

AUGUST: Local school enrollment continues to increase

Enrollment in New Braunfels and Comal ISDs increased at a rate higher than enrollment overall in Texas public schools, according to the most recent data from the Texas Education Agency and local districts. According to the TEA, Texas schools grew by 1% from the 2020-21 school year. In NBISD, that number was 4.19%, and in CISD growth in school enrollment was 6.82% year over year.

In NBISD, enrollment took a slight dip in the 2020-21 school year due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, somewhat in line with the statewide trend. However, CISD actually saw continued student body growth that year, though at a slower rate than recent year-over-year increases.

SEPTEMBER: NBU customers feel the heat as electricity prices rise

Customers of New Braunfels Utilities have seen high charges on their electricity bills this summer, causing widespread concern of how they will be able to keep up with increasing monthly payments.

A 39% increase in overall electricity bill costs in July 2022 compared to July 2021 was seen by the average utility customer, who utilizes about 1,800-kilowatt hours per month. kWh is a measure of how much energy is being used per hour.

SEPTEMBER: Drought leads to strain on Central Texas water supply

Texas is experiencing its second-driest year in 128 years, affecting 23.9 million people across the state, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.

Central Texas may see increased drought restrictions in the future due to a lack of rainfall and high temperatures. As of Aug. 29, Hays County was down about 11 inches of rain so far this year below the average, according to data from the National Weather Service.

OCTOBER: City is guiding development with utility districts

In the past three years, at least nine municipal utility districts, or MUDs, were presented to New Braunfels City Council for consideration within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, the majority of which had been put forth since December 2021.

MUDs are one of many special-use districts cities or counties can authorize within the ETJ for developers to finance utilities and infrastructure for new subdivisions and other developments. More than 2,700 acres of proposed new development just outside the city limits have led to the requests to create such entities.

OCTOBER: Comal County aims to solve staffing struggle

The fiscal year 2022-23 budget, totaling more than $134.9 million, was adopted by the Comal County Commissioners Court on Aug. 18. The largest portions of the budget will go toward public safety, general government funds, and corrections and rehabilitation.

However, Kevin Webb, Comal County commissioner of Precinct 3, said one of the main goals in this year’s budget was to invest in employees. About $9 million, or more than 9%, of the more than $97 million general government funds from the budget is going toward pay raises and salaries for new county positions.

NOVEMBER: New Braunfels to invest $44M in Castell Avenue

The 2023 Bond Advisory Committee reviewed designs and cost estimates of $340 million worth of capital improvement projects identified by the city of New Braunfels. On Oct. 17, the committee produced an official recommendation to the New Braunfels City Council for 20 projects totaling $183 million to receive bond funding. Next, the New Braunfels City Council will review and finalize the list, reducing the funded projects to $140 million, which is the estimated capacity without a tax rate impact for a proposed May 2023 bond election.

DECEMBER: Growing semiconductor industry solidifies Central Texas’ status as ‘Silicon Hills’

After a year that has seen a national increase in focus on the multibillion-dollar semiconductor industry, Central Texas could maintain its position as a key chipmaking center for the U.S. and a regional economic driver.

Today, tiny semiconductor chips have a range of consumer, government and telecommunications uses and can be found in everything from toasters and cell phones to vehicles.

DECEMBER: Commercial pet sales regulation added to New Braunfels animal ordinance

After more than a year of public discussion surrounding the sale of animals in local pet stores, New Braunfels officials narrowly put in place regulations of those sales that mirror ordinances in surrounding areas.

On Oct. 24, council members approved the changes to the existing ordinance to include the prohibition of retail sales of pets within the city limits from a source other than an animal shelter or animal welfare organization.

Lauren Canterberry, Ben Thompson and Eric Weilbacher contributed to these reports.


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