I wanted to respond to the editorial published on March 21, 2018 by Steve Dixon. Originally, I was going to take a small break to reevaluate my candidacy for Mayor of Flower Mound due to recent happenings, and for a few brief seconds, even seriously considered pulling out. However, upon reading this article, it is extremely clear that I need to remain in this race for this town.
To keep this as brief as possible, everyone needs to understand that debt (or liabilities) is debt. The first section of Steve’s article is not accurate and shows a lack of understanding of what debt is. Debt is money owed for an obligation. Period. It’s not subjective. At this point, I recommend everyone go to the Town’s website under the Finance Department, under the Accounting link and find the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report). Please look at the 2017 report, page 27. Look at ‘Total Liabilities’. If there is any confusion on what Liabilities means, please look up the definition. You will see for the financial period ending in 2017, Total Liabilities was $214 million. Mr. Dixon was referencing my numbers from the 2016 report, page 27 where it shows $184 million. Again, these are liabilities, which is money owed. It concerns me that Mr. Dixon does not clearly understand this terminology.
He references all the debt will be paid off in 19 years. The only way this happens is if he is assuming that no future debt, starting today, will be taken on by the town. Due to the continued debt increase year after year, I highly doubt that the town will stop borrowing money beginning today and all debt will be paid off in 19 years. If the town has put in an infinite debt moratorium, then I must have missed that. Assuming the town hasn’t, below is a recap of the towns debt since 2012 (please note the trend):
2012 – $145 million
2013 – $148 million ($3 million increase from prior year)
2014 – $155 million ($7 million increase from prior year)
2015 – $166 million ($11 million increase from prior year)
2016 – $184 million ($18 million increase from prior year)
2017 – $214 million ($30 million increase from prior year)
If for some reason you believe these numbers are inaccurate or false, as Mr. Dixon reported, please look up these reports yourself. Again, they are on the Town’s website on the pages listed above for each year. However, to send out an article stating that these numbers that the town is posting is inaccurate is a major issue.
In terms of the bond rating, please reference my response to Tom Hayden dated February 17th, 2018 for my thoughts and details on bond ratings.
Related to the Pension issue, please reference the same article listed above. My concern, again, is not that we are in default, or haven’t made payments, but it’s fiscally irresponsible not to focus on this or bring it up during each budgeting session. That was my concern. Again, you have over 1,100 active or former members with a 2 to 1 (or 200%) match. As the town grows, this expense will grow. Why Mr. Dixon does not think this is an issue, to at least bring up, is another concerning issue. However, below you will see the ramp up in expense for the same time frames:
2015 – $2.6 million
2016 – $5.2 million
2017 – $6.4 million
Again, don’t take my word for this. Please reference page 66 (+/-) in each of the CAFR reports to view these. Please notice the trend. Mr. Dixon needs to understand as the town continues to grow, so will this number. If the town doesn’t grow anymore and continues with the exact same employee headcount, this number will continue to grow. This isn’t a discussion if it’s a ‘popular plan’ and for this to be brushed off as just ‘modestly’, again, concerns me. At what level do you bring it up? $10 million? $20 million? To address things when it’s a problem is not when you should address things. Again, I’m not saying anything needs to change with the plan. It just needs to become an important part of future focus since this number will continue to increase every year.
The last section in Mr. Dixon’s article about the reserve fund is actually ironic. Back in September 2014, Steve Dixon was one of those voting on the 15% mark for the level the fund needs to be. Please review, again on the towns website, the meeting on September 15, 2014. Please reference who was in attendance/voted on the town council at that time. Regarding the remarks on the bond rating, I believe we have beat that to death already. So, I’m not sure why it was good then and not good now. Also, this is a management issue. Right now, it’s being budgeted and signed off by the town council at a large overage of what is required. Who is making that call and why is no one addressing it? Common theme here, but another concern with the aforementioned article.
The articles, questions, comments I have sent out are more for bringing up items to everyone in the town that I’m seeing and to collectively get the town to focus on them. These are items that others currently on the town council or former members aren’t really looking at on a day to day basis, but are extremely important. This was to hopefully bring everyone together so we all can get a better understanding and get ideas from everyone on how we can proceed.
I had referenced in prior articles, there was a level of defensiveness towards what I was discussing and writing about, which seemed odd. It’s no way for anything to function correctly if you can’t work as a group and come together or get your feelings hurt if someone has a different idea. I’m trying to be a part of a team and part of a town working together. I just want to work towards continual progress and improvement. While I may not have lived in the area as long as most, I plan on being here the rest of my life, so all of this is important to me. I don’t want to look up in 5, 10 or 20 years and pay for mistakes made today.
With that, seems the next 40+ days should be interesting. For everyone in Flower Mound, it’s clearly evident the differences between Mr. Dixon and myself. It’s really up to you all in what you see fits best for our future. Yes, I have not been in Flower Mound that long. I haven’t served before or had the volunteering hours he has had. If those are what you find more important, I really can’t win your vote. I’m not saying those things aren’t important. What I’m saying is that the role of the Mayor is much more important than how long you’ve lived somewhere or community service. There are major responsibilities within the town and there is a responsibility to be clear and accurate on what you communicate to the town.
If what is important to you is having someone being able to have foresight on matters BEFORE there are major issues and someone being able to clearly understand financial matters and being able to clearly see what is going on with the town, and being able to bring attention to them, and not provide dialogue that is clearly inaccurate, then I’m probably one that would be best fit for your vote.
As I started with, I’m glad in the end for Mr. Dixon’s article. It’s extremely clear the importance this Mayor race is for this town and for me to continue pursuing the position.
Flower Mound, TX