As the school year begins many people compare this time of the year with January and the beginning of a new year. The start of a new year provides an opportunity to start fresh, reaffirm goals, desires and business initiatives.
In the City of Highland Village, September is when we vote on the new budget for the City. We have spent most of the summer working on the 2016-2017 budget with City Manager Michael Leavitt and the department heads. This year all the department heads, a few Council members and I participated in the budget presentation and discussion for each department. It was beneficial to bring everyone to the table to understand the cost and depth of the services each department provides the citizens of Highland Village. Everyone benefitted from the input of staff outside of their department and we found ways to collaborate and share costs between departments.
This year our assessed valuations came in at a 4.9% increase which allowed us to address a few supplemental items. The proposed base General Fund Budget expenditures total $15,842,050, only a .1% increase from the 2015-2016 budget. A Supplemental Budget is also included totaling $482,800, resulting in a total increase of 3.2%.
Initiatives this budget year are focused on public safety, technology, personnel, city facilities and city parks.
In public safety, training and implementation of the Emergency Care Attendant (ECA) program to provide medical emergency response by police officers trained to provide initial emergency aid, the continued development of the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system installed in FY 2016 and new equipment for the Fire Department which provides continuous mechanical compressions on patients requiring CPR.
Technology enhancements are included to replace or update the security camera system in all City facilities and parks, implementation of online Permitting, and set up off-site back up of the City network.
In personnel, an adjustment is proposed to address market adjustments, certifications, employee increases and provide a $15/hour compensation floor.
City Hall will receive exterior and interior repairs and a dry fire suppression system will be installed in the IT equipment room at the Public Works Service Center. A design for future development of Sunset Point Park is proposed as well as a hydraulic study of the ponds at Unity Park to determine options for future use and associated maintenance.
I can tell you, Highland Village city staff work diligently to provide excellent customer service at the lowest cost possible. Many projects are completed with city personnel instead of contracting with an outside vendor and this provides a significant cost savings. Our city ad valorem tax rate has remained the same since 2000 and the last change was a decrease. It is our goal to continue to provide the service our residents expect without increasing the ad valorem tax rate. The 2016-2017 budget will go into effect on October 1.
Our police department is hosting the 9th Annual Fallen Officers Bike Race and 5K Run on October 15, 2016. The race will benefit the Texas Chiefs of Police Association’s Officer Survivor Fund. The event will take place at the Shops at Highland Village. In light of the recent killings of the Dallas and DART officers, the event this year will honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.
A 5K run will take place in the morning then in the afternoon police bike teams from around Texas will be racing to remember their comrades who have been killed in the line of duty. Citizens can also ride the bike race in honor of the fallen and to help raise funds for the Officer Survivor Fund.
This year we are selling a T-shirt designed in memory of the officers who have died in the line of duty since the Police Department began this event in 2008. The front of the shirt reads #TXFallenPD and the back lists the names of the 118 men and women who died while serving our communities and ensuring our safety. All proceeds from the sale of these shirts go directly to the Officer Survivors Fund. You can purchase a shirt online, at the Police Department and at many of our local retailers. Check out www.TXFallenPD.com for all the details.
Again this year the HVPD is partnering with the Highland Village Business Association’s Restaurant Week to showcase Highland Village restaurants. Restaurant Week will take place from October 9-15 and participating restaurants will give a portion of their sales to the Fallen Officer Fund. I hope you’ll try a new restaurant or visit your favorite eatery and help support our local businesses and the fund.
The October 15 event will include a memorial to the fallen officers, live music, children’s activities, and a chance to meet some of our race sponsors in the vendor area during the race. The goal is to raise $30,000.00 for families of Officers that have lost their life in the line of duty. This is the sixth year that the race will be held at the Shops at Highland Village – we anticipate a large crowd will come to support the race, the Officer Survivor Fund and enjoy the entertainment. I hope to see you there!
As we look at starting fresh, let’s all make a conscious effort to eliminate distracted driving – namely using a handheld device while driving. It used to be that texting while driving was the main concern but it has grown to using any app or function on a cell phone such as social media, email, internet searches, maps, cameras and listening to music. Driving should occupy all of our attention. We need to pay attention and be ready for the other distractions like kids walking to school, people walking or cycling, construction areas, emergency vehicles and the other cars on the road. Nothing is more important than each of our lives. Whatever is on your phone can wait. If you have to use your phone, pull over so you don’t put your life and the lives of others on the road in danger.
Again this month I encourage you to look for ways to put others first. I’m a firm believer in this scripture, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 (NIV). Let’s all make it our goal to treat everyone the way you would want to be treated, with love, compassion and understanding. While we are all different, we are still one family with each of us adding our special talent and ability to make the family complete. Look for ways you can help someone with your special talent. I promise you, it will make their day and yours.