The anticipation that the Flower Mound Town Council meeting held on Tuesday night (to observe Labor Day Monday) would draw a large audience was right-on– even though council would take no action on the big agenda item; the town tax rate.
Jody Smith Hall was packed; with a large number of attendees wearing maroon T-shirts with the message, “We Support #FloMoEmployees.”
Interestingly, the former mayor was the final public speaker to address the council.
“I’m concerned about the reason I’m here,” said Smith. “It’s ludicrous to lower the tax rate. If you start playing with our employees, they will go … come on, guys. None of us heard that you were running (as candidates for the May election) to lower the tax rate.”
Her opinion that certain council members are playing a game of political manipulation– using the town tax rate and annual budget as the venue– was voiced by other speakers.
Representing 13 additional card submitters, Josh Acker, president of the Flower Mound Professional Police Association, said: “We are all here to serve the residents. To cut items to simply say you are cutting items is not why you were elected.” He added that the saying, “’you get what you pay for,’ can be said for employees.”
Mike Baldree, president of the Firefighter’s Association, expanded on Acker’s points with town employee department examples, from Public Works employees fixing water main breaks or traffic signal outages in the middle of the night to Park and Recreation employees marking fields at night for next-day tournaments and the groundkeeper’s landscaping skills.
He also pointed out that 15 firefighters are needed to open the new Station 7 and the town needs to be competitive to hire the best professionals.
“The market is dictating that raises have to happen to keep up with the market. Lewisville, Coppell and Irving are adding this year, and so are we,” said Baldree.
“We’re still building infrastructure. This town is still growing. It’s still adding, and it’s not stagnant. The safety of the town’s residents is paramount.”
Town Budget Officer Kay Wilkinson presented a quick review of the original proposed tax rate of $0.4390 per $100 valuation, with a $2.5 million in excess fund balance. She explained it can be transferred to CIP or capital improvement plan items to eliminate the need for future debt, or future one-time expenditures.
Her presentation provided an excuse for an abrupt about-face in previous demands to cut the tax rate from several council members.
“I didn’t have a lot of political experience before being elected,” admitted Council member Ben Bumgarner, saying he now supports keeping the proposed tax rate. “Next year, we’ll be capped at 3.5-percent [as passed by the Texas Legislature].”
Council member Jim Pierson said: “Of 20-some emails I got, 17 were not in favor of any tax cuts.” He confessed he had no idea a $21 tax reduction per householder could cause such a ruckus. He finished by asking if it would be possible to raise the tax rate.
“I don’t like adding debt,” said Council member Jim Engel. “I’d rather keep the tax rate to avoid issuing debt.”
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Claudio Forest had previously expressed his support of the original proposed tax rate. “I’m in favor of leaving the tax rate the same and be able to use the excess funds for future CIP or one-time projects.”
The only hold-out to commit supporting the $0.4390 per $100 valuation tax rate was Deputy Mayor Sandeep Sharma.
“That was a good presentation that revealed by keeping the tax rate the same, we could use the funds,” he said, adding it gave him things to consider.
Mayor Steve Dixon summed-up the overwhelming concern of residents.
“I’m A-Ok without issuing debt,” he said. “But, I don’t want lowering merit increases to be even considered as part of the [tax rate/budget] discussion.”
Council members are expected to approve the 2019-2020 budget at their Monday, Sept. 16 meeting.