On July 4th, 245 years ago, the Second Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence and changed the course of history. Happy Birthday to the United States of America! My family and I wish you all an enjoyable and safe celebration of the founding of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!
Future of the Argyle ISD
AISD has begun releasing website and social media commentary on the finances of the school district. A series of statements published on the AISD site seeks to explain the financial management practices of the district. Citizens can make their own assessment of what district officials have to say on this subject.
It is important to keep a few things in mind, however, about the challenges that we face as a community. The Argyle school district, just named winner of the Lone Star Cup for the ninth consecutive time, is the foremost reason for choosing to live in the immediate area. The financial health of the district will undergo increasing stress as the student population surges over the next 10 years, in no small part driven by the attractiveness of the schools. These facts should not be in dispute.
The leadership of the Town is concerned about what the numbers say about the district’s ability to maintain the high quality of education delivered to Argyle students. The Texas Education Agency web page, txschools.gov/districts/043919/finance, while giving AISD an “A” rating on certain financial management practices, also discloses that the district’s spend per student is an outlier compared to peer districts in our region, at $21,775 compared to $13,363. The site also reports debt per enrolled student of $74,290, far higher than peer districts; even fast-growing districts like Lovejoy, Celina and Melissa. TEA’s rating system ignores long-term debt in its ratings if a school district is experiencing growth above 7% per year. The numbers strongly suggest that the district has spending and long-term debt problems.
Before we get deeper into budget season, AISD should look at the examples of “best practice” districts that build detailed multi-year projections as tools for making spending decisions. Carroll ISD, for example, makes use of standing committees that include parents and other members of the community for budgeting and resource allocation planning. Other districts, like Lovejoy ISD, have recently launched strategic planning efforts that rely on community involvement. More public participation and transparency in decision-making is the norm in other North Texas districts, and we should consider their example.
State of the Community Address
In June, I spoke to the Metroport Chamber of Commerce about what your leaders and the Town’s professional staff are doing to fulfill the mandate of the Citizens. The remarks I delivered follow.
“It is my honor to appear before you for the first time to talk about Argyle, an 11 square-mile Town that happens to be the northernmost Metroport Chamber community. The Town is home to approximately 4,700 people and growing at an annual rate of roughly 4%. And here is a really important statistic, tree canopy covers a third of the Town, which helped us to win a Tree City, USA designation in 2019.
Here is where we are going as a community. Argyle Citizens reacted to a handful of unpopular high-density housing decisions a few years ago by changing leadership beginning in 2017. Today we have a unified Town Council and a committed group of Citizens serving on our volunteer boards and commissions.
Argyle leadership is determined to preserve the Town’s rural charm and small-town feel. How to accomplish that goal? In part, by being responsive and professional in the way the Town works on behalf of Citizens and with companies who are interested in operating in the Town.
Continuous improvement is the management model Argyle staff and Citizen volunteer leaders have adopted. Improvements are underway in several areas, including transparency in the operation of the government, Citizen oversight of the Town’s finances, and a focus on improving customer service provided to Citizens and companies doing business with the Town. These targets may seem simple and straightforward – but they consume significant time and effort to realize.
Our progress in building out a more professional, smoothly functioning Town staff has given us the bandwidth to focus on what is important to many of the people in this room, investing time and resources in working with developers and other businesses. You will hear Argyle officials, elected and professional, say this clearly as you engage with us going forward – Argyle is looking for ways to make it easier for you to execute successful commercial development on the Interstate 35W corridor and in other zones designated by our Comprehensive Plan. Let me say that a slightly different way – Argyle leadership is not anti-growth, we are pro-Comprehensive Plan.
You heard me comment on transparency a moment ago. Conducting business in the open requires more than following the letter of the Texas Open Meetings Act. We work hard to report to the Citizens on what their government is up to, and there is always a lot going on in Argyle. We were fortunate to find a gifted journalism professional to run our communications operations and she is doing a great job of using social media to keep Citizens on top of what is happening at Town Hall.
Argyle does not have a lavish operating budget and delivering quality services is not cheap. It is vital, in a Town with less than 1,500 taxpaying households and a small commercial tax base, to have strict financial controls. In the last budget cycle, we implemented zero-based budgeting, expanded public budget workshops and put Citizens with a financial background on our financial oversight committee. The result – we found enough money during the stress of COVID to roll back our property tax rate by 5% without sacrificing service. At the same time, we increased funding for our top priorities, like expanding the number of Argyle Police patrol officers and upgrading their equipment.
Argyle Citizens have been clear on the development goals of the Town for many years. The first version of the Comprehensive Plan started to take shape almost 20 years ago. The policy goal was and remains simple – concentrate and promote development at four zones defined by the intersections of the major north-south and east-west roadways that traverse the Town. The Strategic Plan adopted in 2020 reinforced the Comprehensive Plan and highlighted preservation of the Town’s rural character. To be clear – Argyle Citizens demanded that no additional high density residential be approved in the Town’s interior. At the same time, they have enthusiastically voted for public servants committed to accelerated commercial development – principally on I-35W – in election after election since 2017.
As things have turned out, that policy goal is being helped by some important trends. Rapid price appreciation of land has increased the number of developments in Argyle that are being proposed with multi-acre lots. At the same time development of high-value commercial uses on the I-35W corridor is imminent. Our recently completed retail study suggests that existing residential density is more than adequate to support a variety of retail, commercial office and hospitality uses at both FM407 and Robson Ranch/Crawford Road.
We are all living with the benefits and challenges of record inbound migration to the region. Although Argyle may have a set of circumstances that will make our desired density at buildout achievable, we will all have to cope with serious issues that flow from being home to a lot more people – and soon. Funding for education is a problem we will be wrestling with for the foreseeable future. Mobility is already impacting quality of life and will become a bigger headache in the next few years as ongoing construction projects disrupt overtaxed roads. Water management challenges, including stormwater, wastewater, and the environmental quality issues connected to both, are on the rise.
Overlapping and divided small jurisdictions make these problems tougher to address than in a big city setting with a unified municipal government. If we can find a way to join forces, we can be more effective in managing our way through the challenges. We have a potential solution for our colleagues in government to consider, and for the development community to access.
Argyle stood up a Municipal Development District this year to make it easier for us to work with our neighbors on shared development priorities. MDDs are political subdivisions with a stronger capacity for promoting positive development outcomes than an economic development corporation. We are aiming to make the Argyle MDD into a forum for promoting shared development initiatives and their funding with our neighbors. Crawford Road reconstruction now underway became possible only because Denton County, the City of Denton and Argyle worked together to finance the project in the absence of dedicated bond funding. We will be extending invitations to our neighbors, including our colleagues in Northlake, later this year to discuss how we can do more for our Citizens by joining forces and pooling our resources. We extend the same invitation to our prospective developer partners.
We look forward to working with Chamber members as we build the future of the Metroport region together.”
Argyle Seniors Update
Submitted by Stella McDaniel
The Argyle seniors enjoyed their June box luncheon and playing bingo. Our thanks to The Vintage in Denton for providing our box lunches and also to Jeff Stewart of Edward Jones Financial of Argyle for calling bingo.
Our next luncheon will be Friday, July 2. We will be celebrating Independence Day so wear your red, white and blue.
The next crafts day will not be until September 16.
Our games day will be Thursday, July 15, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Exercise from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. We are going to have several different games going at the same time. Since this will be our first time since the coronavirus stopped us from playing, we hope to have a good turnout. Please let us know if you are interested in playing games and plan to come so we can set up enough tables. Bring a sandwich and something to drink.
For more information please contact either of the following: Jody Bellinghausen, secretary, (940) 390-0765; Stella McDaniel, president, (940) 391-6686; or Karen Kiel, vice president, (949) 206-4563. Have a great July!