Saturday September 3, 2016
A very important week or two for us here in Addison.
As you will see below the next few paragraphs are the very reason I work so hard to write and to keep this newsletter for you.
There are very big issues and decisions to be made that will affect you for years to come and we need and want your input.
Please continue to read at least the first few paragraphs under Council News.
On Tuesday evening, August 30, the council held our first Public Hearing to give folks a chance to share their thoughts about our tax rate and budget.
We had only 4 speakers and I was struck by their sincerity and, unfortunately, a demonstration of how complicated our tax rate and budget process has become.
After many long hours of listening to presentations, study and analysis by our council, our remaining decisions to be made next Tuesday, September 6, are very significant.
Please remember that all of the following are current proposals from staff and are subject to further discussion, consideration, and subject to council approval.
The items listed here are the items for which I have the greatest reservation!
The property tax rate is projected to be set at .560472 and is based on our staff’s projections that it will generate $1,304,131 more in property tax than last year.
That means that if your property value has increased, whether you own a single family home, apartment or commercial business, very likely your Addison property tax bill will also increase.
Why are our property tax bills going up?
First, several basic operational costs to keep our Town running are increasing; outside supplier costs like the folks that cut the grass at our parks, the price we pay for water, and a variety of other services and supplies are going up.
The single largest dollar increase is occurring with our overall personnel costs, which is obviously also our single largest cost of operating our Town. This is a table prepared by our staff itemizing each of these increases.
In all my years on council this is the most transparent our staff has ever been about the totality of these very important costs. Here is a link to this easy to understand file here for you, so you can follow a couple of the highlights and concerns I have.
The very first chart shows our overall personnel expense is going up almost $1.8 million or 7.2%. This includes all of the positions added in our finance department mid-year this year as well as the proposed new positions.
You will also note that our pool for merit and market pay for performance is increasing by over $1 million or a 75% increase over last year.
The next most significant increase is to partially fund our employees’ retirement fund with an increase of over $250,000 or a 14% increase.
A small $55,000 portion of this is to partially fund a pay increase for our retirees based on COLA. This change will also increase our unfunded pension liability by over $500,000 to a total unfunded liability in excess of $5 million.
No surprise that our group health care costs continue to soar with over $3 million dollars of our budget going to this expense: a $215,000 (7%) increase in just one year.
In addition to these still-open personnel recommendations for our budget, we have several other questions yet to be resolved:
- Will this council continue to fund our Infrastructure Investment Fund with the financial discipline necessary to accumulate dollars to avoid or reduce our dependence on debt in the future for looming large infrastructure projects?
- Will this council increase a benefit and add to the already huge unfunded liability in our pension plan by giving retirees a COLA pay raise?
- Will this council form a partnership with the private sector to explore the opportunities of realizing the long held aspiration of connecting East and West Addison?
- Will this council continue the recent fiscal practice of maintaining a reserve fund balance in excess of 30% in our General Fund to protect us and provide a financial safety net for us during volatile economic times?
- Will this council spend more than they take in, incurring debt to cover the expense?
- Will this council make any cuts or reductions in services or costs in the budget?
- Will this council choose to spend the dollars saved in the last two years’ budgets, or instead add them to our Infrastructure Investment Fund or reserves?
- Will this council find a way to utilize the savings generated by our debt refinancing the last couple of years to minimize the impact on our tax payers of funding the large underfunded infrastructure projects (Beltline and Midway Rd)?
- Will this council find a way to balance all of the needs and interests of our community to create a sustainable and fiscally conservative budget funded by a fair and reasonable tax rate?
These and other very important questions will be answered at our next council meeting on September 6.
We will likely begin our discussions at 5:00 pm and you will have an opportunity to share your thoughts with us at 7:30 pm.
If there was ever a time for you to influence an outcome of a council vote, it is now!!
If your voice is not heard, the council is left to wonder or speculate. I for one would much rather hear from you now, when we can incorporate your thoughts into our process, than later when it is simply too late.
I realize not everyone has the time or inclination to come speak at a Public Hearing; however, if you have a comment or concern, call or email your council members and let them know.
Listening to and communicating with our community is a very important responsibility we take on as we serve you on the council.
This may be a time to test campaign rhetoric with the reality of making decisions.
Is the Cotton Belt DART rail line finally going to come to Addison?
By now you all know we have been members of DART since 1983, joining as partners with 12 other cities to create a regional mass transportation system.
We all committed one full cent of the 2 cents we raise in sales tax as the funding of the promise of a rail line, including the Cotton Belt, which would connect all of our cities.
Addison has contributed into this partnership over $260 million and our current monthly payments of over $1 million are enough to cover the entire DART payroll.
As with any serious relationship, our partnership has been based on trust: Trust that promises made will be kept.
In addition to the promise that the Cotton Belt would be coming our way, we all shared the mutual commitment to put the regional interests of developing mass transit above the interests of our respective cities.
Trust and placing the interests of the whole above the interests of any single member are of course the essence of any partnership that intends to survive and grow.
Addison has been very patient, we have been good partners, we have paid in as due, we have put the interests of the whole above our own, we have trusted that promises would be kept. Now it is time for that trust to be recognized with kept promises.
On September 6 and September 27 the DART Board of Directors will determine whether or not they will keep their promise.
There will be a motion introduced to provide mass transit regional rail service on the Cotton Belt Line from Plano and Richardson through Addison all the way to DFW Airport to begin service no later than 2022. It will take at least 10 votes of that board of 15 to pass.
We will find out if DART keeps their word. Since we are in Texas I remain optimistic that all 15 Board members will do what was promised and contemplated in 1983, set aside their individual cities special interests, and do what is best for the Region and the future of the DART system. Will they keep their promise?
If you are interested in helping us bring our Addison message to the DART Board’s attention with a visit on September 6 for their 6:30 pm meeting, please let me know by clicking the button below.
Business Development and Around Town
I am trying a different approach this week to cover the other happenings in Addison.
Partly to try my hand at brevity several of you have encouraged, I am mostly going to highlight the significance of the items covered below.
The new Consul General of Mexico, Francisco De La Torre Galindo, came to visit us at Town Hall on Monday.
Council colleague Ivan Hughes joined me representing Addison at DART neighborhood meetings discussing the Cotton Belt rail line project in north Dallas on Monday evening and on Wednesday evening in Carrollton.
There was a very light yet interested turnout for the final community meeting for our Master Transportation plan 2016 update on Monday night that also included council colleague Ivan Hughes.
“Coffee with a Cop” on Saturday at Dunn Bros. had a very large turnout of folks from Carrollton and Addison to show our support and have good conversation with officers from Carrollton and our Addison Police Chief Paul Spencer and Lt. Denise Keith.
Several of our paramedic/firefighters joined in helping the Addison Legacy Foundation raise money and the profile of our effort to raise funds to restore our old #30 Firetruck.
Board Chair Blake Clemens and very active board member Marlin Willesen were on hand to be sure everyone at Pei Wei on Tuesday knew about the opportunity to contribute.
And always supportive of every Addison effort, Metrocrest Chamber President Erin Carney and many of her team were on hand to help out!
Just a few minutes later council colleagues Bruce Arfsten and Ivan Hughes, along with our City Manager Wes Pierson and dozens of current and former staff, joined us at Fire Station #1 near our airport in a perfect ceremony led by our Fire Chief David Jones to wish retiring Fire Battalion Chief Will Hamilton best wishes and congratulations on his retirement from Addison after over 33 years of exemplary service.
Will recently purchased a ranch just south of Fort Worth where he will be answering the likely less urgent calls of ranching. Best wishes and thank you for all of your leadership and service, Will!
Being a part of the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors and Real Estate Professionals (NTCAR) has become part of our traditional annual support of the real estate community with our sponsorship and participation in their annual commercial real estate expo.
Director of Economic Development Orlando Campos and Deputy Director of our Airport Darci Neuzil put together an excellent Addison presentation for all of the attendees.
Council colleagues Bruce Arfsten and Jim Duffy helped me circulate and spread the very positive Addison message.
Last Saturday night we concluded our Summer Series in Beckert Park with the best event of the summer!
Incredibly talented cast members of our WaterTower Theatre performed an almost two hour medley of the “greatest hits” of works presented at the Theatre over the last season or two.
We reminded the crowd that next summer we will be back with more fun, more excitement and music every Saturday!
Tuesday, September 6, Council budget review session, 5:00 pm Town Hall. Public Hearing, your opportunity to share your thoughts with us on our budget and tax rate, 7:30 pm.
Tuesday September 6, 6:30 pm. DART Board meeting for consideration of the Cotton Belt rail line, DART headquarters, 1401 Pacific Avenue, Dallas Texas, located adjacent to the Akard station served by DART rail lines Red, Blue, Green and Orange … but obviously no Cotton Belt.
Wednesday September 7, 10:00 am. First Wednesday of the month Mayor’s Coffee, Dunn Bros., 3725 Belt Line Road. Come join us for coffee on the Mayor and plenty of conversation about taxes, services and anything else you want to discuss.
Saturday, September 10, 9:30 am-11:30 am. The Addison Arbor Foundation will have the noted artist Jim Eppler, who brought us two of the newest members of our urban wildlife with his sculptures of “Jack of All Trades” jack rabbits near Les Lacs Park and the beautiful doves in the “Peace and Tranquility” sculpture in Oaks North.
Jim will speak about “The Lost Wax Technique” at the corporate headquarters of Mary Kay, 16251 Dallas Parkway. Come join us for this free presentation.
Saturday, September 10: Doggie Splash Day at the AAC pool. Small dogs 9:30 am-11:00 am. Large dogs 11:30 am-1:00 pm. $5.00 charge per dog. Be sure to bring proof of current rabies vaccination.
As you can see, I did not do very well on the brevity effort. I will keep working on that for next week. So much to cover!
Big issues for us to address this week. I hope you will let the entire council hear from you.
See you soon,