Remember the date: Tuesday, September 13, 2016. It’s the night that Addison’s City Council voted to raise your taxes, and subject taxpayers to an underfunded infrastructure fund, increased personnel costs and unfunded liabilities of $5M. The approval constitutes the largest spending budget in Addison’s history with a nearly 8 percent increase in the M&O tax rate. This also could put the town at risk of losing its strong bond rating.
In a roll call vote only Mayor Meier and Dale Wilcox voted against the proposed budget as well as the proposed tax rate, all of which combined with increased valuations will raise resident’s taxes. Paul Walden, Al Angell, Jim Duffy, Ivan Hughes and Bruce Arfsten voted in favor in a 5-2 approval of both the budget and the tax rate. Included in the budget was the $55,000 COLA, which obligates the town to an additional unfunded liability of $532,000. While this puts COLA money in the budget, the COLA itself must, by law be voted on separately at a later date.
With a 5% increase in compensation beginning October 1, 2016 first responders will realize a total increase of 30% over four years. The 5% compensation increase to all other employees equates to a 20% increase in compensation over four years. The vote to include COLA increases the town’s total unfunded liability from $4.5M to $5M.
The most vocal support for the increases came from the very councilmen who campaigned on “keep taxes low” and “cut wasteful spending” (direct quotes from Jim Duffy’s campaign mailer). Walden promised, “By spending your tax dollars wisely, we can avoid the escalating tax rates we have seen in the recent years.” In reality our tax rates beginning in 2011-2012 have been .5800, .5800, .5718, .5618 and .57915, which is when the town lost one of its large sales tax contributors. It’s hardly what one would call “escalating tax rates.” Angell promised, “Keeping taxes low by exercising restraint—just like Texas families.” So much for campaign promises.
Despite rationale explanations from Meier and Wilcox of how fiscally unsound it would be to underfund our IIF fund and to increase personnel costs by an average of 5 percent, including the PAC people who contributed thousands to Walden’s campaign, Walden made it clear where his loyalties are: “Every other city we compare ourselves to has COLA. We have to compete. I’m here to compete and I’m here to represent the staff and let them know in a tangible way that they are valuable and that we want to keep them.”
Also evident by Duffy’s vote was a reinforcement of his campaign comment at the Addison Business Association’s candidate forum when he told those in attendance he wasn’t concerned about the future; only the next few years. The unfunded liabilities now lay at the feet of future generations as Meier pointed out, saying, “I believe we’ve missed an opportunity to make some hard choices. We’ve kicked the can down the road and that’s where it ends up.”
Angell’s questions made it clear that he had done little preparation for the vote. Particularly when he asked the City Manager to provide tax rates for the past five years. “That’s in your packets,” Pierson responded, making it clear that Angell had apparently not looked at the information. Instead of getting the information from his packet Angell asked Pierson to show the information on the screen. When the chart was shown, Angell couldn’t read it from where he sat so instead of taking the chart from his packet he asked Pierson to read it to him.
An earlier interaction between Angell and Meier demonstrated that when Angell misses meetings he apparently doesn’t bother to view the video later to be brought up to date. During a lengthy discussion regarding the Legacy Foundation, Angell was extremely critical of being asked to make a decision. He rather arrogantly stated, “In the world that I come from if somebody has a plan then they’re going to make a presentation. Let them come and make a presentation to us in a very professional organized way.”
“Well, they did make a presentation, Al, and you weren’t here; you missed the meeting,” Meier responded.
FM has been contacted by several citizens who expressed being aghast that Angell seemed to be totally oblivious and showed an apparent lack of commitment to be informed. As one individual said, citizens have a right to expect their elected officials to come to council meetings prepared and that includes staying informed when they miss meetings and certainly reading the information provided them to be fully prepared for decisions to be made—certainly decisions as important as an annual budget.
Hughes delivered a long soliloquy about having a future “strategic discussion” about policy regarding the COLA going forward and having the City Manager bring recommendations to the council. But as for the current COLA, he felt he should approve it. Arfsten had little to say other than to concur with much of what Hughes had said.
About the only comment Duffy had was that while he appreciated the effort to build the IIF fund he didn’t think this was the year to build it. He did, however, support putting the COLA in the budget. He pointed out that COLA was yet to be voted on and could be discussed more, but should be put in the budget.
By ordinance, the council still has to vote on the COLA. Any doubt of how that vote will go?
Mystery Box Discovery
Deputy City Manager Cheryl Delaney announced to the council that a safety deposit box was recently discovered at the Bank of America Financial Center on Dallas Parkway that no current staff was aware of. Interestingly, Frost Bank was the town’s bank of record during the final years of Whitehead’s management. It is unknown when exactly the safety box was established or what the contents are since there is no inventory log in the town records. The current signers, all no longer employees of the town, are Ron Whitehead (former city manager), Randy Moravec (former CFO) and Sandra Goforth (former finance department). Meier made a motion to approve a resolution to designate new signers to access the town of Addison’s safe deposit box. Arfsten seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Cheryl Delaney, Caitlan Smelley and Charles Goff are the designated new signers. Two of these individuals will go to the bank to update the signature card and determine what is in the box. The visit will be videotaped to ensure complete transparency. They will then report back to the council.
Legacy Foundation Request Denied
Because Meier and Arfsten serve on the Legacy Foundation Advisory Board, and because the council did not appoint them to this board, they were legally not able to participate in any discussion or vote regarding the foundation’s request for funding for a connectivity project. Hughes was asked to lead the discussion, which rather quickly resulted in a motion by Duffy to deny the request. The motion was seconded by Walden. The motion passed 3-2 with Walden, Duffy and Angell voting to deny it and Hughes and Wilcox voting for.
Meier then made a motion that included a partnership between the city and the Legacy Foundation to fund a connectivity study with the town funding 70% of the funds from the hotel fund after 30% is raised from the community by the Legacy Foundation. The project is to be managed by the town. The motion passed 4-3 with Meier, Arfsten, Hughes and Wilcox voting in favor and Angell, Duffy and Walden against.
Meeting Date Changed
Because DART will be holding a decision-making meeting on Tuesday evening, September 27—the night of the town’s next scheduled council meeting, the council meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday, September 29 so that all individuals wanting to show support for Addison and the Cotton Belt line being included in DART’s future plans can attend this meeting. If you would like to attend this meeting and show support contact the City Manager. The town is arranging transportation arrangements and visual supports.
Photo via reynermedia – Flickr
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