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From the Sidelines – October 2012

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2012–2013 Budget

The budget for next fiscal year was passed by Double Oak Town Council in a special called meeting Friday, Sept. 21st, and the good news is that the tax rate stayed the same. 

Expenses are forecast higher than last year, of course, but projected property tax revenue is less because of the lower valuations.  These are all the excuses that most governments need to raise taxes.  Your Town Council is smart and experienced.  Tax increases are not the Double Oak way.  How did they do it?

Council and town staff are tight with your money.  Some expenses planned this year were deferred.  Many expenses came in under budget.  As a result, there was a small surplus that could be used to help fund expense in the New Year.

I realize that property values are increasing again.  Appraisals seem to always lag the actual values.  Appraisals were high when values were decreasing and are low now when they are increasing.  Eventually, things will balance out.  Your total tax bill may increase next year because of county or school district taxes but please observe that your Double Oak tax rate is the same.  Kudos to the Mayor, Council and Staff.

Futures

You may notice that I write a lot about money.  As town treasurer, I spend a lot of time thinking about it!  Sources for town revenue other than property taxes always interest me.  Several years ago, a communications company asked to put a cell tower on town property.  The advantage to the town, other than having better cell phone connections if you happen to subscribe to the same service, is that they pay a monthly fee to the town. 

One of the classic knocks to having a cell tower close is a safety issue.  Personally, I’m not worried about the radiation from a cell tower.  I think I get more radiation when I put my cell phone next to my ear.  The real trade off might be property values of homes close to the tower.  One immediately notices the tower when it is new but not so much after a short while.  The company that wanted to locate on town property kept the tower in Double Oak by making a deal with the Crossroads Bible Church.  The church needed a revenue stream so it worked out well.

I don’t notice that cell tower any more than I notice the huge water tower that worried us so much a few years ago.  Recently another company approached the town about locating a cell tower in the same location on town property.  The application was heard by the Planning and Zoning Committee on September 25th and was soundly rejected.  Even if it passed P&Z I think it is doubtful that the Council would have agreed without major modifications.  I’m not sure that the business case (the money paid every month) was near as enticing as the one rejected years ago.  If another company approaches the town in the future, I say “Show me the money!”

Our best bet for property tax relief is our tiny piece of commercial property at the corner of Chinn Chapel and FM 407.  There is a property restriction from the church so that always has to be worked out but imagine a retail store or gas station!  Not only would it provide property tax but produce sales tax as well.  One or two successful business might even reduce our tax rate.  I’d like to see us move in the direction of zero property taxes again.

Mayor Mike Donnelly and former Councilman Gary Garrett have been working to make commercial development happen.  A bigger town might hire a consultant to drum up interest but we have never wanted to spend that kind of money.  Our friendly neighbor Flower Mound is actively developing the property on their side of Chinn Chapel Road.  I am envious of their accomplishments in building attractive commercial properties.

Flower Mound’s success on one side of the street will likely bring suitors to Double Oak.  It will develop when the time is right.  I’m sorry that my friend Tom Pidcock will not be alive to see it.  Tom and I were both strong proponents of tax relief by commercial development and Tom actually led the effort to zone that corner commercial.  Historically, the town has been cautious about commercial development.  Caution can be a good thing.  But when all is right with the design, we’ll see some limited development.  If it’s attractive and suits the town it will be a positive option in my opinion. 

Flower Mound has the advantage of a much larger staff to help with development but I believe that much of their success has been from their strong volunteer community that pitches in during development to make it fit in their town.  When the time comes, I hope Double Oak volunteers show up to help us do it right.

 

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