- Continue to advocate for additional City property tax rate decreases.
We have all experienced our home appraisal values skyrocket over the years, which is great for resale value, but not so great for property tax costs. Over the last several years, the City of Rowlett has reduced its property tax rate by 4.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. While the Dallas and Rockwall County Central Appraisal District’s continue to increase assessed values, the City must continue to provide property tax rate relief while also balancing other needs in our community.
- Ensure that a fair and equitable contract is implemented with the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD).
Rowlett is a “Customer” City of the North Texas Municipal Water District (as opposed to one of the 13 “Member” Cities). Like many such wholesalers, NTMWD has a “take-or-pay” provision in the contract that requires the annual purchase of a minimum amount of water based on the highest annual usage. For Rowlett, this amount is 3.2 billion gallons, which was set after the drought of 2006. Over the past 15 years, Rowlett has paid over $21 million for 11 billion gallons water it did not sell under the “take-or-pay” agreement with NTMWD. Additionally, “customer” cities, which includes Rowlett, are charged a 5 cent premium per 1,000 gallons of water, and it has been suggested that NTMWD is looking to increase that customer city premium, which must be prevented.
For many years, the NTMWD and its 13 “member” cities have been in a dispute over the methodology used to calculate minimum payments from each entity, referred to as “take-or-pay”. In October of 2020, the NTMWD and its 13 member cities announced they had agreed to a settlement on the take-or-pay dispute. As a result, the NTMWD has recently reached out to Rowlett to begin conversations of a revised contract. There is still a lot of work to get done before coming to an agreement with the NTMWD for a new water service contract and it must be a top priority of the Mayor and City Council that we see this through.
- Continue to prioritize public safety investment to adjust to the increasing population and risks.
After first being elected to the City Council in mid-2017, I soon realized how depleted our police and fire departments were of needed personnel, equipment, and market competitive salaries. It was shocking to me how our previous elected officials could allow our police department to have minimum staffing of only 6 officers per-shift patrolling and responding to calls in a community of 67,000 residents. Our fire department was utilizing old, beat-up equipment and they hadn’t seen a personnel increase since 10+ years prior to 2017, even though population increased almost two-fold since that time. After realizing this, public safety investment became a top-priority of mine. It is a duty of and expectation that your local government has the necessary personnel and equipment to manage and respond to emergencies when they occur.
In the five years of serving you on the City Council, a total of 27 new firefighters and 16 new police officers have been hired. Due to the increase in personnel, an additional ambulance was placed into service and 6 additional positions have been added to each police shift. Additionally, significant investment has been made into purchasing new equipment and tools for police and fire. We are in a much better spot today than we were five years ago, but there is still a lot more that can be done to increase safety in the community.
- Create and implement an Infrastructure Report system which will assist staff and Council with project prioritization.
An infrastructure report card system assigns grades (A+ to D-) for each infrastructure category. The infrastructure categories which would be analyzed and graded include surface infrastructure (street, alleys, sidewalks and bridges), drinking water, stormwater, wastewater, facilities, information technology, and quality of life services. The report card’s issued grades will be based on a variety of measurable performance standards. The methodology will consider the following: capacity, condition, funding, age, future need, operation and maintenance (including sustainability), public safety, resilience and technology (capacity, reliability and redundancy), deployment time and refresh schedule.
This report card system would be modeled after The Report Card on America’s Infrastructure generated by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) which has assisted other communities with infrastructure analysis and funding prioritization.
- Elevate the focus on above and below-ground infrastructure needs and funding.
Planning for capital improvements is an ongoing process. As the City’s infrastructure ages and as needs change, capital programs and priorities must be adjusted. New construction may be required to accommodate increased demand or replace aging facilities while existing infrastructure requires periodic rehabilitation, replacement or other improvements to protect the City’s previous investments. The City uses an array of funding sources to pay for these projects. City funds include proceeds from impact fees, bonds and the general fund (taxes). Federal and state funds can be used for upgrades to roadways, etc. Some projects are funded by special assessments, such as the 50/50 Shared Cost Sidewalk Program, in which the City and owners share the cost of replacing sidewalks. The City Council has adopted a strategy of placing bond propositions on the election ballot every three years. Bonds allow the City to allocate millions of dollars to capital projects which has helped to expedite process of repairing our poor conditioned infrastructure. This has been accomplished without having to increase the City’s property tax rate. It is critical that the City Council continue to support bond elections every three years.
Another top priority of mine is partnering with State and Regional Representatives to influence the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) into adding the Miller Road bridge re-construction to the NCTCOG Mobility Plan. This would go great lengths to securing future federal, state, and regional dollars for the Miller Road bridge re-construction project.
- Implement overlay zones in the North Shore and other economic development opportunity areas to ensure that the last parcels of develop-able land in the city is safe-guarded from unwanted development.
Many communities are finding, with increasing frequency, that traditional zoning through residential, commercial, and industrial districts is not sophisticated enough to address complicated growth and development issues. To fill this void, local governments are creating zoning approaches with increased flexibility, aimed at more specialized targets, and intended to solve problems identified in their community. One of these tools is the overlay zone. The overlay zone is, as the name tells us, a special zone placed over an existing zoning district, over part of a district, or over a combination of districts. Put another way, the overlay zone includes a set of regulations that is applied to property within the overlay zone in addition to the requirements of the underlying or base zoning district. The overlay typically provides requirements intended either to protect a specific resource or to encourage development in certain areas.
- Partner with DART member cities to organize a coalition to advocate for a reduction in the amount of sales tax DART receives annually from its served cities.
In 1983, Rowlett agreed to become a charter member of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). In 1989, Rowlett citizens voted to remain a DART member city and again voted to remain a member in August of 1996 by a 67-33% margin. As part of the agreement to remain a DART member city, it was required that Rowlett allocate half of its 2% sales tax to DART annually. Since that time, DART has received nearly $100 million from Rowlett’s sales tax allocation. Today, DART earns about $7.5 million annually from the 1% sales tax in Rowlett. While sales tax numbers continue to increase across most DART member cities, I believe it’s time to have a conversation with other member cities about calling for an independent cost-of-service review of DART to determine if the 1% sales tax allocation of each member city is still feasible and financially responsible.