By Larry Varnes, vice president and resident director, Robson Ranch HOA
It’s already August. Kids and their parents are scrambling to figure out what “back to school” means. Classrooms or remote learning. It’s all up for grabs in our ever-changing world of COVID-19. As we struggle to keep our priorities in order, the way we lead our lives are changing.
At Robson Ranch have rediscovered the great outdoors. Dinners and get-togethers are happening on driveways instead of inside the house for easier social distancing. The CDC has advised us that outside is better than inside for most activities. Many of our clubs and classes have taken this seriously and have moved their activities outside to a lawn or parking lot.
Outdoor sports have also benefited from the trend. Golf in particular. Going into this pandemic golf play was on the decline across America. Yet we have experienced record rounds played at our 27-holes at the Wildhorse Golf Club. It is easy to social distance. The same applies for tennis and pickleball as they continue to pick up membership. Common elements – outdoors and exercise.
Even individuals are taking the clue. The number of residents walking in the early morning has exploded exponentially. You just can’t beat a cool morning serenaded by a beautiful sunrise.
When not busy exercising outdoors, there is plenty of time for Robson Ranch to contribute to our greater community.
For example, the Material Girls Club at Robson Ranch made 8,373 masks donated to over 60 organizations, including many nursing and assisted living homes, medical facilities, food banks, Robson Ranch employees, the Denton Police Department, and even the FBI. As few as five masks to as many as 1,000 masks were given out at a time.
Word spread and donations poured in. The Material Girls Club did not keep any donation money above expenses. It enabled them to donate $2,250 to the Denton Community Food Center.
A couple of wonderful things also happened to reward the Club for all of their hard work. AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company, whose employees were working double shifts producing their version of a COVID-19 vaccine, were so grateful for the masks, they donated $10,000 to the Denton Community Food Center. And Nabisco donated a large amount of snack food to the same food center.
A theme starts to develop as how to describe Robson Ranch.
We are a community dedicated to our families and friends. We have assisted so many during this COVID -19 pandemic. We have established curbside pickup for basic pantry items as well as curbside delivery of meals to go. Plus, neighbor helping neighbor. We are blessed.
We are caring people who give to charitable groups throughout Denton County and beyond, whether its masks or backpacks and school supplies for the Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) who has provided safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention for victims of domestic violence for 40 years.
We are a patriotic community. Our Support Our Troops Chapter members are dedicated to keeping contact with troops deployed in foreign countries. The chapter also ensures every resident has access to an American flag to be proudly displayed on their property. Flags fly throughout Robson Ranch on every holiday.
We are a religious community with two church bodies located right on Robson Ranch property. Countless residents regularly participate with churches and faith centers throughout Denton County, always willing to help others.
Robson Ranch appreciates being connected with all of the communities that surround us. Robson Ranch continues to grow with no indication of a slowing of either resales or new home construction. We now have 2,325 homes built and occupied with many more under construction.
Denton City Council Update
By Jesse Davis, Denton City Councilman
From the very beginning of the current public health crisis, we knew that our families, businesses, and government were going to face a great economic crisis as well. We did not yet know how great. We all know a family breadwinner who is out of work or a favorite local shop that has closed. In the City of Denton, we predict that sales tax revenues (which help fund our police, fire department, streets, etc.) have dropped somewhere between 15 and 25 percent.
But I am proud to say that Denton has met these challenges head on. As the time comes to set our City budget and tax rate for the coming year, I expect that in September we will adopt a balanced budget and an effective tax rate—one designed not to collect more revenue than the year before. As a utility provider, we do not expect any rate increases for water, sewer, or solid waste.
We are able to do this because the City of Denton is an excellent steward of your tax dollars, and because we are weathering the crisis better than many other communities. That is not to say that everything is rosy—many families and businesses are in dire straits. Even so, the outlook in Denton could be much worse.
Before the crisis Denton enjoyed sustained economic growth. New businesses were opening on every corner, and unemployment was very low. Even as the natural gas industry petered out, other sectors were growing. In 2019 the SmartAsset firm named us the number two “boomtown” in the country.
Still, your City Council did not take this as a license to overspend your tax money. Our budget is lean and focused. Your City tax rate is lower than it has been in years. And we have done a good job of what I call “banking our growth.” By that I mean we started important infrastructure projects—streets, fire stations, waterlines, etc.—during times of steady revenue and low bond rates.
Some sectors performed at almost the same level even during the “lockdown.” With our large universities and other government agencies, Denton has many salaried employees with about the same amount of money as before to spend at local businesses. Low interest rates mean that people are still buying houses, and new people are still moving here.
And don’t overlook this—the people of Denton LOVE to support local businesses. We know that small business owners need our help in tough times. We would rather spend more to support a friend and neighbor’s family than spend less and support the stock price of a large corporation. Our restaurants and bars—staples of Denton culture—are especially hard hit right now. Many have found creative ways to soldier on, but they can all use your patronage right now.
Moreover, when the crisis hit, the City Manager took immediate steps to safeguard your public funds. He instituted a hiring freeze and got permission from the City Council to begin a voluntary separation program. Eighty-seven city employees took advantage of the program. We hate to lose experienced people, but from this early, decisive action we expect to save $9 million in the next budget year and will not lay off any City employees. This also gave us a chance to tighten up some departments, and we will not fill a number of vacant positions as we pivot to meet changes.
We cannot accurately predict what the future will bring. But I can confidently say that your City is as fiscally healthy as we could be, and ready to meet the next challenge as nimbly as we have met this one.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me on these issues and any others before the Denton City Council. You can reach me on my cell at (940) 208-7439, or by email at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll see you around town!