In brief, before the proposal on property taxes detailed below, I wanted to let you all know that I will be taking a break from my candidacy for Mayor for at least a few weeks to reevaluate this whole process. Even before I ran, I was warned on multiple occasions by those close to me, and more by others I didn’t even know, that Flower Mound politics can be a little on the ‘rough’ side.
While I’ve met some awesome and very positive people over the past month or two, I’ve also met a select group who may be more on the ‘glass is half-empty’ side. From those folks in particular, I’ve found most, if not all, of the negative questions and comments, and overall defensiveness towards me, to be more entertaining than anything. It’s amazing the amount of time people spend on creating stories about others, bashing ideas when they either don’t understand them, or the ideas weren’t previously brought up or discussed beforehand by those they are more familiar with. They just try to come up with something negative or create some ulterior motive in someone’s life. It’s especially bad when those things are done to those who are trying to be part of a solution and have a progression towards positive change.
If these people would take a fraction of that energy they use on these random acts and turn it back towards the town in a positive way, try to expand on new ideas, or come up with something productive for themselves or others, who knows how much they can accomplish or we can accomplish together.
For me, the whole goal was to bring up new issues and ideas to change the course of some things I’ve found that affect all of us, that could be done better, and to bring a new face and new attitude to try to eradicate the divisive mentality within those who follow Flower Mound politics and operations. I intended to help be one small piece of a puzzle to help bring everyone closer together, while addressing items that currently are not done or could be done better. I did not want to be an extension of a problem that continues to linger of an evidently huge divide with those really plugged in to the town.
However, some of the negatives of running for office that could come up, actually did, and hit me and my family in the face. While there are no details I need to share, I’m really disappointed in a recent turn of events. Look, I never intended to get votes from those who are so divisive or so intertwined to the negative things in this town. My whole goal was to get more than the normal 5,000 people in this town to get out and vote and show the things that can be done, and to try to get a positive message out of everything we can work on together. That’s it. As I previously mentioned, my family and I will be taking a pause to figure out what the best future route is for me on this. I will leave you with this regarding what we can do to save money on our property taxes.
In a continued review of the Annual Budget, and Audited Financial Statements, and to keep with moving towards a ‘new culture of economic focus, structure, and diligence’ for the Town of Flower Mound, one key goal was to focus on not only continuing to provide long term benefits to the town, but also to provide personal economic benefit to all of the citizens, specifically with lower tax rates.
Upon my review, the town can easily implement a reduction in property tax immediately based upon the rules set forth by the Town Council and Staff, WITHOUT reducing anything already planned to be built, change of operations, etc. All that has to be done is to follow what the Town Charter recommends and is written in the initial section of the Annual Budget. This is using the direction set forth by town council and staff. However, no one is managing it or has followed through on this to implement.
I’ll provide more detail on this, so you can see how this works. If you refer to the Flower Mound Annual Budget (page 9… the third paragraph under ‘General Fund Reserve Level’), the Town Charter requires a minimum unreserved fund balance of 10%. What this means is you take all of the projected expenditures (expenses) for the year for the General Fund that are projected (expected for the year), and you multiply that by 10%. You then put that amount in the Reserve Fund. The Reserve fund is like a savings account, or a rainy-day fund. Basically, if expenses get completely out of line and you need to get in to your savings account to pay for them, the Reserve Fund is there for a ‘cushion’. However, in the Financial Policies adopted on September 15, 2014, the threshold of 10% was moved to 15% in the Town Charter.
However, the town has been managing this fund level percent at an amount far greater than 15%. The Town, over the years, has managed the fund not at the 15%, but ranging from 22% – 34%, from 2013 – 2018. The town has not dipped below the 15% mark. Again, the lowest level was 22% in at least the last five years. If the Town operates as the Town Charter requires, at the 15% level, and we use 2018 as an example, we could reduce what is projected to be in the Reserve Fund by $3.8 million and pass that amount to the citizens in terms of a tax reduction. Again, this is only the additional amount that was previously required by the town to keep in the reserve account, when it was only required to keep 15%.
Here is how the math works (rounded). The town projected $61.5 million in expenditures for 2018 in the General Fund. The town did not budget to keep only 15% of the $61.5 million in the Reserve Fund, per the Town Charter requirements. It actually budgeted to keep 22%. Again, please reference page 9 of the Annual Budget to verify. So, what this did is require the town to keep $13.7 million in the Reserve Account, when it could have budgeted to keep just $9.2 million. So, there is a $4.5 million additional amount the town decided to budget above and beyond the Town Charter requirements (no reasoning listed in the Annual Budget why).
My proposal (if we were to use these numbers that were projected for 2018) would be to reduce the Flower Mound Tax Rate from $0.439 to $0.399 effective on 10/1/18 (which is when the next Budget takes effect). What this would do is reduce the total property taxes needed to be collected from all citizens (combined) down $3.8 million. This keeps the Town in line with what the Financial Policies are in the Town Charter (at or above 15%… with using these numbers, we actually end up at 16%). More importantly, this benefits everyone in the town with lower taxes required to pay. This again was all done by not changing any course of action with the town, just managing the rules set forth by the Town back in 2014 and still held today.
Now, when talking to people about this idea, two of the immediate questions and/or responses are:
- It can’t be that simple, can it?
- If it was that simple, why hasn’t this always been done?
To respond to these, I simply say, “yes, it’s that simple”, and “I don’t know why this has never been adjusted or discussed”. The town council back in 2014 set these marks and there have been zero issues with this threshold.
Remember, this does not affect anything else other than solving a math problem related to the Reserve Fund. Any and everything that is being built, planned to be built, additional parks, future growth, whatever you want to throw in there, doesn’t have anything to do with this situation. This is as simple as effectively managing the economics of the Reserve Fund.
Also, this doesn’t have anything to do with economic stability, with the town at all. The town being economically strong and stable, needs to be at a 15%. Again, with my example we are above that at 16%, but this doesn’t have to do anything with the town credit rating or any other indicator. What this does, is makes the town’s tax rate go down, making it a much more attractive place for people to move to, which in turn makes the value of all of our properties go up.
Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions or comments. I feel this is a positive first step in moving forward with a new economic plan. I also realize there still may be some confusion on this since it almost seems too simple to be this easy, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. These are items on the first couple of pages of the Annual Budget. As we continue to work through these in more detail, there are probably many other ways we can make this town better and save money at the same time. As always, I’m at [email protected] or www.billrobinsonformayor.com.
Flower Mound, TX