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Flower Mound town hall design and fiscal budget approved

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Rendering of Flower Mound’s new town hall.
Rendering of Flower Mound’s new town hall.

The vision for Flower Mound’s new town hall is starting to become clearer.

A unanimous preference—including from several town staff members– for one of five Flower Mound Town Hall architectural designs was selected, following only positive comments from council members at Monday’s meeting.

The five design options were created by Oxley Williams Tharp Architects of Fort Worth. At the Sept. 6 council meeting, the architectural firm presented three different elevations/options for the new building. Following the input and discussion of the council, two revised elevations were presented and the fifth design option was the immediate winner.

Rendering of Flower Mound’s new town hall.
Rendering of Flower Mound’s new town hall.

“We generated two new designs based on the direction from council,” said Andrew Oxley. “There will be some more massaging of the design, like the patio area, but we’ll keep working on that.”

Some of those modifications will include an employee entrance on the east side from the parking lot, landscaping features and a patio area, among others.

2016-17 Budget

Approval of the 2016-17 town budget and tax rate was also unanimous; with a 3-0 vote.

Council member Jason Webb had notified others of a work-related absence for the Sept. 19 meeting, while Itamar Gelbman had sent an email to Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos that he had an emergency and would not be at the meeting.

The staff budget presentation highlighted the town’s general debt service requirements of almost $9-million.

It also examined the difference between: the effective tax rate of $0.415 (which would provide the same amount of revenue per $100 valuation for appraised property); and, the proposed/current tax rate of $0.439. The revenue difference will be approximately $2.1-million for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 is expected to pay $24.51 more in taxes with the proposed rate, as based on new assessed home valuations.

Examples of ongoing items possibly covered by the $2.1-million revenue difference are: approximately $1 million for public safety pay increases with benefits; $897,000 to staff Fire Station 6; and. $241,000 for two police lieutenants.

Additional expenditures are: $486,675 for cardiac monitors; $44,900 for ballistic protection vests; $73,800 for outdoor warning sirens; $248,000 for fire station renovations; plus $100,000 for street maintenance.

Mayor Tom Hayden pointed out that two-thirds of expenditures are for personnel.

“Not long ago, people were asking why the town wasn’t doing more to help the police and firefighters,” he said. “We need to increase the revenue.”

During the earlier public participation meeting segment, resident Renee Doyle voiced a preference for the adoption of the lower effective tax rate, which many other residents have shared.

“In 2013, taxes were raised for a three-percent merit salary increase to get staff from the 50th– to 65th-percentile and I think that is a great idea,” she said. “Many residents are not getting a three-percent step-increase.”

She went on to point out that comparing the town with its 15 benchmark cities, Flower Mound ranks third for salaries; only Southlake and Colleyville are higher.

“We have teachers and nurses who aren’t getting those step raises … everyone deserves a raise,” she said. “But, at whose expense?”

The Flower Mound Professional Firefighters Association President Mike Baldree said the proposed tax rate is needed to support increased manpower in expanding staff with new stations. The effective tax rate would cut employee compensation; and, with 300-350 job openings [in the North Texas area] the lower rate will decrease job recruiting capabilities.

Fire Chief Greaser added that a pay-studies examination is done every two years and it’s cyclical.

“What’s not cyclical is what’s occurring right now in Lewisville,” he said. “They’re recruiting as many five-year officers from any of their neighbors … and they’re bringing them in at more than any ‘topped-out’ salaries. Everybody’s trying to recruit and doing a whole lot of ‘robbing’ from one community to another.”

Greaser also spoke about the town’s current ISO (Insurance Service Office) public safety rating of a “2” (with “1” being the highest), based on the Level of Service (LOS) of staff and response times. How much homeowners and businesses will pay for insurance is based on the ISO rating.

“The review is supposed to be every 10-years, but we were last reviewed in 2000,” he said, adding that he’s getting almost daily calls to schedule that required review visit.

Council member Don McDaniel pointed out that everything is driven by staff, when it comes to an ISO rating: pay issues, compensation packages, benefits packages, salaries and losing staff to other communities will impact the response times; and, that impacts the ISO rating– which impacts what homeowners and businesses pay for insurance. And, it would impact bringing in new businesses and an added ad valorem tax revenue.

“It’s [recruiting and maintaining officers] gotten more difficult over the past several years,” said Police Chief Andy Kancel.  “We want the top-level and we’re very picky to start with. By the time we hire them, get them through the academy and then be ready to put them in the field means paying them for about nine-months.”

“Our turnover was horrible,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Webb. “They’d get trained and then they’d jump for an extra $2,000. I don’t want to be in that position again.”

Hayden agreed, saying: “Back then, it was a 44-percent turnover-rate over a five-year period.”

Future expenditures were addressed by Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Bryant.

“It’s a good thing we do have a AAA-bond rating, because we’re going to need to fund some big-budget projects—wastewater upgrades, road resurfacing, storm water upgrades—that will cost millions of dollars,” he said. “And, the inflated cost of concrete and labor in the future is much higher than the interest we save by having a AAA-rating and doing the work now. Paying to upgrade older parks, older neighborhoods and older sewer lines … infrastructure costs a lot of money and so does labor.”

Hayden pointed out that when there are new developments and new tax revenues, “there’s also an added cost with a greater demand for our parks, roads, fire and police service.”

When the council addressed an ordinance adopting the 2016 tax rolls and fixing and levying municipal ad valorem taxes for the fiscal year, Stathatos read a statement sent by the absent Gelbman:

“I am opposed to increase the tax rate. Due to the increase in property values and staff’s great fiscal conservative management (just a few weeks ago, Jimmy announced that due to a restructure of the executive level, we were able to save $70,000 per year). I can’t support an increase in property tax. Denton County, LISD and almost every other town or city adjacent to Flower Mound are lowering their taxes. We should do the same. We owe that to our residents. I have full trust in Flower Mound staff and the executive levels will be able to handle the budget and cut fat to allow a reduction in property tax and still end the [Fiscal Year] in a surplus.”

Hayden responded: “There’s an insinuation that there’s ‘fat’ to cut; doesn’t staff do that always?”

Councilman Bryan Webb had some strong words about Gelbman’s statement.

“’Cut the fat?’ He made that statement like it’s a fact. After having one workshop and two prior public meetings on the budget and the tax rate where he was late for the budget workshop and made no comment on ‘fat in the budget.’ And here he is dropping this bloody bomb on us in the last moment?” said Webb. [McDaniel added: “And he left early from the strategic planning session.”]

“He’s either ignorant, incompetent or inept; it’s got to be one of those three. I can’t wait to hear how people are going to defend him on social media. He’s pathetic,” Webb said.

He added that the town’s CFO was rated as a top female executive in this region of Texas, saying: “We don’t have amateurs in these roles, folks.”

The 2016 tax rolls and municipal ad valorem tax rate of $0.439 per $100 assessed valuation ordinance passed 3-0.

Future Agenda Item

Earlier in the meeting, a discussion on whether or not to include as a future agenda item a request from Gelbman to release documents created by Webb and Bryant that are believed to coincide with their approval of the Bradford Farm Development MPA during the Sept. 6 Town Council meeting.

“On Sept. 9, I got an e-mail from Gelbman saying: ‘you read from a printed document, can you send me a copy’ and I responded ‘no,’” said Webb. “He said they [the statements] are subject to Texas Code Sec. 553. I sent an email to Mayor Hayden asking for guidance, and he said the procedure is to discuss this in public at the next meeting as an agenda item; so that’s what I’m requesting.”

Stathatos then read a statement from Gelbman:

“This item should not be a future agenda item. Since I have been involved in town politics, Mayor Hayden always took pride in Flower Mound being transparent. Our own Town Attorney, Bryn [Meredith], believes these documents are subject to Texas Government Code Sec. 552. I believe it is the people’s rights (I think both Bryn and state law support my opinion) to see these documents that Bryan Webb and Kevin Bryant read from when they justified their reasoning to support the Bradford Park MPA.”

Webb repeated that Gelbman’s document request “be a future agenda item when it can be discussed openly. If we talk about it now, we’ll be breaking the open meetings act.  Previously, Gelbman cited 552; now it’s 553. What purpose these items will assist him [Gelbman] doing his duties as a council member– and what obligation I’m under to provide what Gelbman’s requested.”

Bryant and McDaniel requested the item be listed on a future agenda.

2016 P&Z Commission Appointments

During the public participation segment at the beginning of the meeting, resident Janet Jones thanked the council members for their service and for waiting until September to make changes of appointees for town boards and commissioners.

“Some, whose services were no longer desired, may have felt slighted, because they were not reselected,” she said. “Feelings may have been hurt; egos bruised. Changes to boards are not new or unique and appointees serve at the council’s pleasure.”

Although changes are to be made in September, she pointed out that last year that didn’t happen when Nels Pearson and David Johnson were replaced following the May 2015 election at the request of Gelbman and [resigned] Brian Rountree.

Hayden said: “One of our council members said that the new P&Z Commission was just a rubber stamp for the council; and that’s just not true. I just want to apologize to the new P&Z members for being called that.”

He added that he told Brad Ruthrauff, formerly an Alternate council appointed to Place 1, to “vote your conscious, not what anyone else tells you to do; we all should vote our conscious.”

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