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It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”

–George W. Bush

City Manager Wes Pierson presented his proposed budget to council members last week. Budget review meetings were held on Wednesday, August 3 and Monday, August 8. Eleven citizens showed up for the Wednesday meeting—a handful staying for the entire meeting. Thirteen citizens showed up for Monday’s meeting but several left at the council’s dinner break. Interim CFO, Scott Neils, gave the formal presentation.

All council members but Al Angell attended the Wednesday (8/3) meeting and all council members attended the Monday (8/8) meeting.   With the purpose of the meetings being to drill down into the various budget items to ensure complete understanding, the mayor asked numerous questions for clarifications and Hughes, Arfsten and Wilcox contributed actively to discussions as well. Given that the three new council members all stressed things like, “fiscal responsibility,” “cut costs,” and “cut wasteful spending” in their campaign materials, it was interesting that few questions or comments about proposed costs or cost-cutting came from them.

For example:

Al Angell’s campaign materials said, Al will help transform City Hall by seeking improvements that businesses use every day and cut costs and improve services so our town operates more efficiently.”  On Monday, Angell’s questions and comments involved questioning whether new protective vests for police came in different sizes; whether adequate funding was allocated to Metrocrest Community Clinic and suggested, “We [the town] have more room to take on more debt because of current low interest rates.” In other words, utilizing the business philosophy of using OPM (other people’s money) which, of course, adds debt and must be paid back with interest.

Paul Walden’s campaign materials said, “By spending your tax dollars wisely, we can avoid the escalating tax rates we have seen in recent years.” Actually, the town’s tax rate has gone down from where it was five years ago:

2011-2012    2012-2013    2013-2014    2014-2015    2015-2016

0.5800%        0.5800%        0.5718%        0.5618%        0.57915%

Walden’s most active participation was his request to discuss COLA (cost of living allowance) options for retired employees. This would be an unfunded liability since COLA is not a part of the currently proposed budget. For fiscal year 2015-2016 COLA would add to the budget costs of $1,670,564.

Jim Duffy’s campaign materials said, “Fiscal responsibility to keep taxes low and cut wasteful spending.” Duffy did not question any of the proposed expenditures.

The point being, given that fiscal responsibility was such an integral part of these campaigns one would have anticipated more inquiries or clarification requests, yet it was the mayor and other council members who asked the most questions.

Staff used the discussion and feedback from the two budget review sessions to tighten up the final presentation, which Scott Neils presented at the Tuesday, August 9 council meeting.

Mixed Bag Council Meeting

Last night’s council meeting (8/9) was a mixture of cooperative progress and confrontational discourse.

Four residents spoke during the public comment section of the meeting; three in favor of a stop sign at the intersection of Le Lacs and Beltway and a fourth who, despite the fact that items on the agenda should not be discussed in a public comment session, once again complained about the mayor’s newsletter. This item was clearly listed on the meeting agenda.

Following a 7-0 approval of Consent Agenda items the mayor recused himself for the public hearing and discussion of rezoning approximately 18.2 acres of land, which is the former site of the Ewing Auto Dealership. This item had been tabled from the July 12 council meeting. After considerable discussion the council passed the rezoning 6-0 as recommended by Charles Goff. Wilcox made the motion, Walden seconded.

An item for rezoning property at Trinity Christian Academy was tabled until September 27 at the request of Trinity.

Council approved 7-0 rezoning of property in the Prestonwood Place Shopping Center from retail to restaurant and a new special use permit for the sale of alcoholic beverages on premises consumption only. The old India West space will become a Vietnamese noodle restaurant. Arfsten motioned, Angell seconded.

Appointments were made to the Inwood Road Corridor Special Area Study Advisory Committee. Seven residents were named, one each by each council member and 4 business representatives were named. Three businesses are remaining to be named.

After considerable discussion to consider a meritorious exception for vehicular signage for Misfit Industries, the exception was denied in a 6-1 vote with Angell opposed because he felt there was some disruption to the company. Wilcox motioned, Duffy seconded.

A roll-call vote of 7-0 approved a resolution establishing a potential maximum property tax rate of 0.59 cents per $100. To see complete details of this and other budget items you can download the PDF of the slide presentation by going to the budget page of the town’s website.

With a 7-0 vote it was approved to sponsor residents and/or employees for the 28th class of Leadership Metrocrest.

All Out Conflict Erupts

Friction began with item #17 on the agenda, when Walden challenged the purpose and function of the Finance Committee. Despite detailed responses to Walden’s questions from Hughes, Meier, Wilcox and even the City Manager—including suggestions that he attend the committee meetings to see how the committee operates firsthand—Walden continued to argue against having the committee. Angell even commented that numerous organizations he had involvement with had finance committees but Walden was insistent that there was something “suspicious” about this committee, suggesting that the by-laws were insufficient, inferring that the committee had the power to do things that were clearly not existent—even misinterpreting elements of the bylaws and assuming the mayor was the chair; he is not. It was explained that the 2014 council wanted the finance committee to come up with by-laws so, they were developed by former City Manager Lea Dunn, then City Attorney John Hill, Cheryl Delaney and a representative from Weaver, who was the town’s accounting firm at that time. Meier suggested that if there are modifications or revisions needed, that’s fine. After considerable testy discussion back and forth, Walden acquiesced when the council voted to make three changes to the committee’s by-Laws. Watch the entire debate:   (Go to the pull-down list, select second to last item.

Angers Erupt

Meier noted that since it was almost 11 p.m. and the council had been working since 5:30, he made a motion to table indefinitely the final items on the agenda which dealt with revisiting the issue of the mayor’s newsletter and his using the town’s email distribution list. Duffy said, “We’ve played this game long enough. No more discussion.” Walden said, “Let’s just have a vote on the motion.” Arfsten, Meier, Wilcox and Hughes voted in favor, Walden and Duffy voted against and Angell abstained saying he felt the issue had been a contentious item and thinks it require some discussion; he’d like to at least hear from the people that put it on the agenda. Then things literally erupted. Meier offered to withdraw his motion and the discussion became extremely contentious—and personal. To accurately see just how contentious this issue became, watch for yourself: (Go to pull-down, select final item)

After several minutes of back and forth conflict, Walden confessed, “I don’t feel like I’m in the majority here,” finally saying, “I will live with the rule of the council.”

It appears that at last the mayor’s newsletter saga has come to an end.

Important Upcoming Meetings  

Special Council Meeting

Monday, August 15, there will be a special council meeting in the Council Chambers to discuss the Midway Road project. Check the town website for exact time.

Community Workshop

You should have received a post card in the mail announcing the Community Workshop to discuss the future of the Inwood Road Corridor and provide your input.

Wednesday, August 17, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Addison Conference Center.   An important presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m.

Cotton Belt Meeting

Thursday, August 25 @ 6:30 p.m. at the Conference Center, Dart will hold a meeting to discuss the future of the Cotton Belt as it relates to Addison

Tax Rate Public Hearings

Two dates have been set for Public Hearings for the proposed tax rate of .560472 per $100.

August 30 @ 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall Council Chambers

September 6 @ 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall Council Chambers

Photo via 401(K) 2012 – Flickr

The Facts Matter Website is made possible through the generous donations from Angels of Addison.

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