Sunday, September 22, 2019

Building and Maintaining Southlake – Top Priorities in the FY 2020 Budget

Southlake is a highly functional city and it’s sometimes easy to take that for granted. But it takes work: From water, trash and sewer services to zoning, park maintenance, and traffic management, our engineers are working around the clock to make sure we stay clean, safe and efficient.

One of the City’s tools used to help it stay highly functional is to provide funding for the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects. This five-year program identifies construction projects to implement the Southlake 2030 and Southlake 2035 master plans.

CIP projects provide travel convenience within the city and region and provide attractive and unique open spaces for those who live, work and visit Southlake. These projects also ensure that the City will meet demands for water, sewer and drainage.

Year one of the CIP is called the Capital Budget and allocates dollars to build the identified projects. The $18.7 million Capital Budget helps ensure dependable infrastructure that makes daily life in Southlake better and in FY 2020, will be 100% cash funded.

Building and Maintaining Southlake

Public Works construction projects figure prominently in the FY 2020 budget.

Funds for citywide pathway improvements, like the new sidewalks included in the N. White Chapel widening project, and annual street rehabilitation projects will be provided. Major roadway projects such as intersection improvements at FM 1938 and W. Continental Boulevard and S. Peytonvillle Avenue and Continental Boulevard will kick off in FY 2020 with engineering services. A partnership project with TxDOT and Cities of Southlake and Colleyville to rebuild the bridge that connects Pleasant Run in Colleyville to White Chapel Southlake will also start.

Dollars will also be allocated for improvements to Southlake’s water, sewer and drainage systems. Overall system capacity improvements will be addressed. Drainage improvements on public land near Peytonville Avenue, Raven Bend, W. Highland Street, N. White Chapel Boulevard, Shady Oaks and Florence Road are also funded. The Miron Elevated Storage Tank is set to be repainted in FY 2020 as well.
Southlake engineers and inspectors have the responsibility to design, build and ensure the quality of the City’s infrastructure. Once these items are constructed, crews take on the responsibility of maintaining them.

With more than 296 miles of water distribution pipes, 208 miles of sewer mains, 211 linear miles of city roadways and 174 miles of sidewalks/trails, maintenance responsibilities are significant. And these numbers don’t even account for public drainage ways and associated infrastructure like fire hydrants, meters, valves, manholes and lift stations! The new construction will complement the current infrastructure and makes sure that facilities meet future demand.

Don’t forget about the Parks?

City parks, open space and recreational amenities for all ages are a top priority. The good news is that special funding makes it possible to implement the park master plan in an ongoing and steady timeline. In FY 2020 this means improvements to the Southlake Sports Complex and the barn at the Bob Jones Nature Preserve.
The Southlake Sports Complex project includes field improvements, shade structures, restrooms, a playground, batting cages, trails, parking, and other amenities. Construction will take a few years, things will get started in FY 2020.

While the current barn, built in the 1970s at the Bob Jones Nature Preserve has not been safe to use as classroom space, plans for FY 2020 aim to change that. This CIP includes funds for the City to move forward for improvements.

The City owns or leases 1,197.8 acres of parkland and open space, and is responsible for the maintenance of the property and the related improvements, including 51 practice fields/game facilities, seven playgrounds, 21 tennis courts and 14 pavilions.

The CIP paves the way for ongoing infrastructure development, making sure that Southlake continues to be a premier community in which to live, work and play.
Interested in learning about all of the FY 2020 CIP projects? Visit the FY 2020 Budget page and click on the CIP link at the bottom of the page in the budget documents section to see the entire list.

No new property tax-supported debt in FY 2020, thanks to managing debt the Southlake way

At the most recent City Council meeting on September 3, City Council had the first reading to approve and adopt the proposed FY 2020 budget. Discussed during the meeting was the City’s debt strategy.

Debt management has been a key financial principle that has guided the development of the City’s budget for many years.

The City uses several methods to reduce the debt obligations including:

  • careful budgetary management;
  • the use of voter-approved special revenue funds;
  • aggressive amortization schedules;
  • ongoing attention to refunding opportunities; and,
  • the use of cash for projects when possible.

“These techniques and strong bond ratings have allowed for a reduction in the City’s property tax-supported debt by 61% since 2010, in spite of ongoing infrastructure development. Debt as a percentage of assessed value has decreased from over 3% in 2002 to a projected 0.34% in 2020,” said Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson.

The good news about debt

“For the sixth straight year, there will be no new property tax-supported debt. The City will use cash to fund all General Fund capital needs. For FY 2020, $8.3 million in cash will be used to pay for these capital projects. This means that property taxpayers will not see an increase in the amount of debt that they are responsible for repaying,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton.

About 96% of the property tax-supported debt will be paid off over the next 10 years. “That’s in direct alignment with the strategy of increasing the amount of cash that we’re putting toward the projects as well  as using short amortizations when we do issue bonds,” said Jackson.

The City’s debt tax rate is also being reduced for the second consecutive year. The City’s conservative approach to managing debt, aggressive amortization, consistent monitoring of favorable market conditions, and refinancing existing debt all contributed to reducing the debt portion of the City’s tax rate by 20% since FY 2018, bringing the proposed debt rate for FY 2020 to 8 cents per $100 valuation.

Property tax-supported debt per capita is being reduced as well. At 41 cents for every $100 of valuation, the City of Southlake’s property tax rate supports basic city services such as public safety, street maintenance, library and community services. It also helps pay off the debt that’s been incurred for city infrastructure such as new roadway construction and expansion.

“Again the City’s use of cash and aggressive amortization schedules when debt is issued have paid off for residents. The City has reduced the property tax-supported debt per capita from $3,506 in 2010 to $1,197 in 2020,” said Jackson.

What you need to know about the City’s debt management

Debt can be a good thing in moderation. Some debt is necessary and appropriate to ensure intergenerational equity. In other words, paying cash for 100% of capital projects would front-load the cost of 20-year assets on today’s taxpayer.

The City continuously analyses market conditions to determine if more favorable interest rates are available for existing debt. Most recently, the City refunded almost $19.3 million in debt in FY 2019. This resulted in almost $2.9 million in savings over the life of the debt.

Voter approved special sales tax levies have been pledged to pay for bonds used to construct facilities identified in the City’s parks and trails master plans, as well as the public safety facilities

Since 1994, the City has put voter-authorized sales tax dollars to work on the upkeep and construction of Southlake’s beautiful parks system. The sales tax monies help with the initial cash payments that jump-start many of our big projects. Sales tax district monies from the Southlake Parks Development Corporation Fund and the Community Enhancement and Development Corporation Fund pay for the balance of projects like Bicentennial Park and Champions Club.

Cash funding to reduce debt

The FY 2020 budget proposes the use of cash to fund all General Fund capital improvement projects for the year. The City has extensive infrastructure that needs to be maintained, this cash funding strategy has allowed for the City to balance the payment and timing of expensive CIP projects.

“In the last 10 years, from FY 2010 including this proposed budget, we’ve transferred $45.5 million of cash to fund our Capital Improvement Program which is an agreement with our debt strategy of minimizing our debt burden to the residents,” Jackson explains.

“This year we are going to fund 100% of the CIP with cash. A large portion of that is coming from the Strategic Initiative Fund.  We are also using residual dollars unspent from past projects and revenues from our other special revenue funds to pay for projects in the CIP. The good news is that we’re not increasing our debt burden in the current fiscal year, ,” Jackson continues.

“The City takes its debt obligation very seriously, said Yelverton. “Several years ago, we worked with the City Council to establish a strategy to reduce the debt as a percentage of assessed valuation over the long term. It’s good to see that percentage decrease year after year.”

Want to learn more about the proposed FY 2020 budget and the City’s debt management? Visit the website at www.CityofSouthlake.com/FY2020 for more information.

Southlake’s Commitment to Highest Standards of Safety and Security Visible in Proposed FY 2020 Budget

Maintaining the highest levels of safety and security is one of the City of Southlake’s top priorities. The proposed FY 2020 budget was prepared with the idea of ensuring that strategic investments are made to advance the City’s safety goal. These investments will help further protective measures and policies that reduce danger, risk or injury to all those who live, work or visit Southlake.

A crisis can happen at a moment’s notice, and while the City can’t always prevent a crisis from happening, it can take measures to ensure a feeling of safety and security in Southlake.

“It’s so important to maintain the highest standards of safety, security and protection so our residents are able to enjoy a high quality of life in Southlake,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. “We always aim to minimize the risk, but if something does happen, we want residents to rest easy knowing we are prepared to handle it.

We have some of the highest trained and accredited professionals watching out for Southlake. I can promise that when they go into a situation they are confident in their decision making and are looking out for the best interest of those involved. This proposed FY 2020 budget is an investment that allows the City to ensure people are living their best possible lives.”

To maintain a high level of public safety, the City is focused on a number of key initiatives for the coming year, including school safety, building services funding, mosquito vector control, providing necessary equipment and training for police and fire personnel’s continued excellence, and funds to upgrade the Emergency Operations Center.

While keeping Southlake safe includes the work of the Police, Fire Department and Emergency Management, it also includes the work of many other City departments. Building inspectors and plan examiners work day after day to ensure the buildings in Southlake are held to the highest building code standards. Public Works maintains infrastructure throughout the City to make sure your water is safe to drink and the roads are safe to drive on. The FY 2020 budget has allocations to help sustain all those efforts.

One priority focus is school safety. This includes funding for maintain school zone flashers and crosswalk striping and the ongoing funding for School Resource Officer Program, of which $1.6 million is allocated in FY 2020. The program places at least one SRO in every Carroll ISD school.

“Keeping our students safe is always a top priority of the Southlake Police Department,” said Police Chief James Brandon. “Our SROs care deeply about the students and school faculty they protect every day. They take tremendous pride in a safe, protected environment where students can focus on learning.”

The Police Department will also purchase equipment such as additional body cameras and replacements for laser radars and tasers for our officers. The Fire Department will also be purchasing not only fire protective gear but will also replace two vehicles in their fleet.

The proposed FY 2020 Vehicle Replacement Fund will allow the Fire Department to replace a 2008 brush truck for $240,000 and a 2007 platform ladder truck for $1.6 million.

The City’s Vehicle Replacement Fund accounts for the resources needed to manage the purchase of vehicles for the City’s fleet. The establishment and funding for the vehicle replacement program was designed to even out expenses for the City’s fleet from year to year and provide a logical method for purchasing and retiring vehicles.

“We’re constantly looking ahead and making sure that when a vehicle is replaced, it’s planned and accounted for,” said Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski. “The two vehicles being replaced in the Fire Department are more than 10 years old and have served us well.”

The Fire Department will also be making investments in upgrading the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC allows for City emergency personnel to gather in one central location to help mitigate a situation in time of crisis. Having the EOC as up-to-date as possible provides the City with an extra degree of readiness.

“Readiness is about ongoing training and having the equipment and materials we need to get the job done,” said Fire Chief Michael Starr. “The EOC is a great asset that allows us to best manage any incident that comes our way. It brings many resources together and provides what we need to stay focused, confident and use our best judgment when making important decisions that will impact the City in high-stress situations.”

All of the safety and security investments outlined in the proposed FY 2020 budget allow for the City to prepare to be ready for crisis and protect the community while making lives safer. Interested in learning more about other safety and security investments? Visit the City of Southlake website at www.CityofSouthlake.com/FY2020.

Proposed FY 2020 Budget Offers Largest Tax Rate Reduction in over 25 Years and Keeps the Promise to Continuously Improve Southlake

City Manager Shana Yelverton has filed the proposed FY 2020 Budget for City Council consideration.

FY 2020 Budget Accomplishments LargeThe proposed budget totals $104.8 million dollars. This includes a 3.7 cent tax rate reduction, the largest in more than 25 years. Southlake’s 20% homestead exemption offers homeowners an equivalent tax rate of .328 cents for the average valued Southlake home, or about a $148,000 taxable value reduction.

Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson presented the FY 2020 Budget Guiding Principles at the August 6, 2019, City Council meeting sharing the news of the tax rate reduction for the first time. “Each year when we’re in the process of developing the budget, homeowner tax relief is always in the forefront of our minds in thinking through how we can provide relief to our residents,” noted Jackson.

Since 2009, City Council has worked strategically to target meaningful tax relief for homeowners, and the 2020 budget is no different.

“One of the goals that this Council set a couple of years ago was to continually, year after year, look for ways to cut the taxes for our citizens,” Mayor Laura Hill commented during the meeting. “Understanding that appraisals are constantly an issue of them going up, so to have a new tax rate that’s below the effective rate, and still offer the 20% homestead exemption to our residents which really gives them an extra piece of pie as compared to our commercial properties, I think that’s really important. Our residents made a huge investment to raise their families here in our community.

It’s just outstanding. At the end of the day we’re living within our means and while we are a wealthy community we might say ‘Hey we make lots of money, let’s spend lots of money.’ We can do things big and better and fancy but at the end of the day the money belongs to the taxpayers and we learn to manage that money and still build an incredible community.”

Did You Know Reduced Property Tax Supported DebtReducing Debt

Debt reduction is once again a priority in the FY 2020 Budget. “Continuing our commitment to reducing debt is paramount when we are in the process of preparing the budget,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. “We strive to pay cash for our general fund capital improvement projects, and this year is no different from previous years. 100% of those projects will be cash funded in FY 2020.”

The multi-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) identifies projects that will be undertaken in the upcoming five-year period, as well as projects beyond that timeframe. In FY 2020, the CIP includes funding for sidewalks as well as roadway projects across the City that are designed to help make travel within Southlake quicker and smoother.

“The City of Southlake installs and maintains miles and miles of sidewalks to provide our residents general connectivity,” notes Yelverton. “One of the CIP projects for FY 2020 is Citywide Pathway Improvements to add more sidewalks in Southlake. Not only will this add to connectivity it will also offer more safe routes to travel.”

Improved mobility and enhanced protection for those who live, work and visit Southlake are just some of the priorities for residents and Council. The proposed FY 2020 budget delivers on these priorities.

Did You Know SIF CIP FundingConnecting Southlake

FY 2020 mobility projects will continue with the City’s mission to keep connecting Southlake. Projects in the budget include the Zena Rucker Road Connector and improvements to some key intersections that will help alleviate ongoing traffic troubles.

“Getting drivers to where they need to be in the safest and most efficient way is always what we’re always striving for,” said Public Works Director Rob Cohen. “Some of the projects in FY 2020 have already been underway for a while, but the new ones scheduled to start really help illustrate the vision of the 2030 Mobility Master Plan. It’s not always easy to clearly envision what the plans speak to, but we’ve already made some great progress on CIP projects and look forward to helping new ones become a reality.”

Protecting Southlake

While you typically think of the Police and Fire Departments when it comes to protecting the community, in Southlake we take a team approach. Building Codes are in place to safeguard those inside buildings, and up-to-date and maintained infrastructure helps ensure continuation of services.

The proposed budget takes all of that into account and includes allocations to ensure the highest quality protection for Southlake. Initiatives include system capacity improvements for Southlake sewers, upgraded technology and equipment for police officers and firefighters, ongoing funding for school safety and the School Resource Officer program, funding to replace a fire ladder truck and additional equipment for the Outdoor Warning Siren Notifications.

“Emergencies and disasters happen when we least expect them,” said Fire Chief Michael Starr. “Sometimes we’re lucky and we have a little bit of heads up that trouble is on the way. We can’t always prevent disasters from happening, but we can be prepared to deal with them. Having a plan is key. The safety initiatives in the proposed FY 2020 will help us continue to execute and fine-tune our plans.

You can learn more about the proposed FY 2020 budget by visiting CityofSouthlake.com/FY2020