This last Saturday evening marked the end of our Summer Series in Beckert Park with a great turnout for the music of Clave Y Sabor. Mayor Pro Tempore Blake Clemens, our staff and I welcomed the festive crowd and thanked them for their summer long support of our series and invited them back for next year—and also reminded them that right around the corner is our 25th Anniversary of Addison Oktoberfest!
With the end of summer, this week also came with cooler temperatures, kids back in school, and Council closer to finalizing our budget process. The next few days are critical times in the process as we grapple with the Big Issues yet to be resolved.
This week alone we had three separate Council work sessions focused on several pieces of the budget: Review of the status of our Airport Fund and their progress on their Strategic Plan; and approval of a plan to reinvent and reinvigorate our sagging Hotel Fund. In a 5/2 vote, Council approved a deviation from our financial policies and tradition to permit the Hotel Fund to borrow $500,000 from our General Fund reserves to finance the purchase of a new air conditioning system for our Conference Centre. We also reviewed requests from our nonprofit groups assisted by our Communities Partners Bureau members and Council Liaisons Margie Gunther and Chris DeFrancisco. This new group of volunteers has performed just as we expected and hoped and their service in enhancing our connections with our not-for-profit community is deeply appreciated. Committee Chair Kathie Wood is joined by Laurel Brewster, Donna Hugly, Becky Thompson, Stacey Griggs, Sabina Bradbury, Lance Murray, Troy Cooper, Sharon Aston and Dan Heinzerling, thank you all for your service to Addison.
We also have spent a very significant amount of our time examining our current compensation plans for our Addison Town employees in an effort to insure our plans are fair and competitive. We have reviewed their entire plan including the details of their Benefits package that includes an outstanding retirement component, deferred compensation, vacation pay, 9 annual leave days, 12 annual sick days, partial tuition reimbursement, no cost to our employee health care insurance, no cost dental coverage, no cost life insurance, no cost long term disability, and an annual bonus paid based on longevity.
We had an outside consultant review how we stand compared to nine other cities in our immediate neighborhood that staff determined makes up our competitive set for employees. The report indicated that while our benefits packages are at or above the market, in some areas our direct pay component is lagging. This deficiency has prompted extensive debate about the implementation of an entirely new system called a “step system.” The step system is very common among governmental institutions, and cities of our competitive set that have civil service. We will have a vote of record on this issue since it is so important and so far reaching in terms of its potential long term affect on our financial picture and the culture of our organization. Based on discussions this week it appears 2 Council Members favor this change to a “step system,” 2 Council Members favor staying with our current merit based pay system, and 3 of our colleagues are undecided. If you have thoughts or opinions on this issue, I encourage you to contact any or all of our Council Members to share your thoughts, or you are most welcome to come to one of our remaining public hearings to share your thoughts with us, or both!
We continued discussing and debating our tax rate for next year. As you may recall, our current rate is 58 cents on $100 dollars of ad valorem value. Since our overall Town ad valorem values went up over $100 million dollars this year, we will generate over $600,000 in additional revenue from the same tax rate, and since our sales tax revenue has recovered very nicely and is projected to continue to improve, we are projected to have over $1.8 million dollars available this year in our General Fund, that we did not have available last year at this time if we leave our tax rate at its current 58 cents. We have taken on new and restructured debt this year of about $38 million to execute parts of our recently passed Bond propositions, upgrades to our first responders’ radio system, and more infrastructure for the continued build out of the Vitruvian development, requiring additional annual debt service of $1.1 million.
Doing the quick math you can see that leaves us with about $700,000 of surplus revenue to use to lower our tax rate, adjust our employee compensation plans, improve our levels of service with modified levels of service additions, and add to our reserves or any combination of those. Or, we of course still also have the option of increasing the tax rate above the current 58 cents to as much as 62.5 cents to fund additional modified levels of service as proposed in our City Manager’s Budget recommendation. This obviously is a very important discussion, debate and decision by Council and it affects you! If you live in an apartment, own your home, have a business or even are simply a visitor to Addison, you pay property taxes, maybe indirectly in some cases but our property tax rates affect all of us. Property taxes make up over half of the revenue we use to pay for the outstanding city services and amenities we have here in Addison, therefore these decisions this next couple of weeks will affect our ability to continue to deliver or even improve on those levels of service. Again, we welcome your input. Call or email any or all of your Council Members to share your opinion, I can assure you that your input is a very important part of our deliberations.
Other Council Actions and Activities
On Monday evening August 27 our entire council joined Water Tower Theatre luminaries and Addison Business Association leaders to recognize one of Addison’s very special superstars of civic involvement and contribution Holly Canterbury. We read a proclamation declaring August 27, 2012 as Holly Canterbury Day in Addison as a very small token of our heartfelt appreciation for Holly and her Husband Bob’s long term commitment to making Addison better every day.
Tuesday evening August 28 for our Regular Council Meeting we reviewed the Town Financial results for the Quarter ending June 30 with our General fund results showing good improvement in our revenue areas and our other Funds on track to meet budget expectations. We heard a presentation from Mark Brooks, president of our Addison Business Association, on their efforts to improve their relevancy and increase their current membership of 58. We also heard a presentation from Rodney Hand, publisher of the Addison and North Dallas Corridor Guide magazine, on his ideas for new digital signage on Belt Line Road. The Council also approved staff recommendations for a new storm water utility fee and we scheduled a public hearing for your input on Oct.9.
We also appointed Ivan Hughes to our Planning and Zoning Commission. Ivan was one of 16 applicants that held their hand high as an expression of interest in serving in this very important role. I was so pleased that 16 of our fine Addison folks applied and that I had the privilege to interview each one of them and learn more about their love and passion for Addison. In one sense it was a very difficult decision with so many very qualified candidates, in another it was easy because it would be very difficult to make a poor choice. I know Ivan will do a great job for us as he has on every other project or assignment for Addison, and as he has in his other professional and civic endeavors. Special thanks to P&Z Chair Ralph Doherty for his help with an orientation and review of the P&Z expectations with Ivan before his appointment.
On Wednesday we held a luncheon at the Addison Conference Centre to celebrate the creative efforts and talents of our employees. The luncheon was tied to the exhibition called, “On My Own Time,” and Deputy Mayor Pro Tempore Bruce Arfsten, Council Members Neil Resnik, Chris DeFrancisco and I, were amazed at the hidden artistic talents of our Addison professionals–they take such good care of us each day and still find time to explore their creative sides. The Business Council for the Arts judged the entries in a variety of categories—a big congrats to all of the participants and winners.
On Thursday we bid a fond farewell to retiring Park’s staff superstar and leader Ricky Smith at a large gathering of well wishers at our Service Center. Deputy Mayor Pro Tempore Bruce Arfsten, Neil Resnik and I joined representatives of every Addison department to honor and thank Rick for his 30 years of service. Parks Director Slade Strickland reminded us of several fun stories and shared moments with Ricky, and highlighted Ricky’s incredible work ethic that, when combined with his electric smile, made him a force to be long remembered and never duplicated. Ron Lee joined in the stories and before long there was not a dry eye in the room. The first employee I ever met in Addison was Ricky. Two days after we moved into our first Addison home, my then 8-year old son Brennan and I were in our back yard cleaning up debris that had washed up on our yard from the overflowing banks of White Rock Creek. We were picking up trash and debris and looked up to see Rick and one of his crew doing the same thing, in our yard. We walked over to chat with Rick and asked, “why the help?” His immediate response with that smile that lights up the day, “That is the way we do things here in Addison.” Needless to say we were incredibly impressed and as we now know that was Rick’s daily all the time commitment to his job and Addison. My young son was very impressed, and said, “Wow Dad, that is a good man,” and no truer words were ever spoken. Good luck Ricky, we are really going to miss you.
Addison Project Updates—Exciting News!
The time has come! The Village on the Parkway redevelopment should begin September 4 with the demolition of the former Bed Bath and Beyond building. Construction of our new, 35,000 square foot Whole Foods will follow, with completion date expected around July 2013.
Our new iconic Water Tower is almost complete! Landscape and retrofit of some new wind turbine blades should be complete by the end of next month. We have amazing interest in sponsorship for the completion of our learning center that will be in the base of the Tower.
Our Addison Legacy Foundation Board met this week and rounded out their current Board composition with the addition of Phil Griggs. Phil will join Tom Hunse, Bob Heckman, Jackie Franey, Tamela Thornton, JJ Horan and Ivan Hughes. They focused on their mission, vision and marketing plans.
Congratulations to Council colleague Chris DeFrancisco on his recent acceptance into the North Texas Commission’s Leadership Class. Chris will join other area elected officials and leaders one Friday a month to learn and study regionally significant issues. This is a great opportunity for Chris, and of course Addison, as we gain the benefit of his experience and his level of knowledge and understanding shared with us in his work here in Addison.
Business Development and Retention
Economic Development Director Orlando Campos continues to work hard for us pursuing new opportunities for Addison, providing important information and encouragement to new prospects, and finding new ways to retain the business that we have. On Wednesday August 29, Orlando led our efforts at the NTCAR convention at the Sheraton Hotel downtown where a group of influential real estate professionals gather to review opportunities for new investments. Orlando was joined by Darci Neuzil and Bill Dyer from our Airport staff, and Bruce Arfsten, Margie Gunther and I rounded out our team!
I also met this week with Addison business owner Paul Markowitz at Senior Living Specialists helps you find the perfect senior residence for family and friends. Paul has been featured on CBS News and in the Dallas Morning News with his personal story of a family challenge that turned into a very successful business helping others. His passion and real life experience set him apart in helping his clients identify the best senior living option for them or a loved one, and his service is free! Paul thanks for basing your growing business with us right here in Addison!
On Tuesday I met with the entire partnership team at BKM Sowan Horan accountants and consultants located in the Colonnade building at 15301 Dallas Parkway. Managing Partner Richard Sowan, Partners Tim Horan, Michael Barber, Trey Kennedy and Brad Marckx, each sang the praises of having their business located here in Addison. They began their business in 2010 with just a small handful of employees and they now have 25 and are continuing to grow as they look for good people to add to their team now! They have a diverse client base spread around the real estate, energy, financial services and professional services business sectors, and they have developed special expertise in the health care field. During our discussion, I learned that they are having a very special guest come explain and discuss the Affordable Health Care Act on Monday September 17 from 8:30-10:30 at their offices. Their guest speaker will be none other than the architect of the plan himself, Ned Holland. Ned is the current Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services; he will discuss the Act and outline options available for businesses under the Act. Richard Sowan and his partners gave me permission to extend an invitation to a few of you if you would care to attend. This is a very special opportunity and will be limited, so please contact the BKM Office Manager Christy Thorne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-545-3968 to secure your spot. This is another great example of the talent and intellectual capital we have and intend to keep here in Addison. BKW Sowan Horan, We’re Glad You’re Here!
Thanks also to our new group of Addison volunteers who are founding members of our new Citizens Assisting Police group. The group has nearly completed their training and will be ready to help by mid-month, or sooner. Tom O’Brien, Betsy Sterns, Gil Bruneman and Michael Rice make up our pilot program of volunteers that have gone through several hours of training, including a police ride along, which had to be completed before Chief Davis will release them to their duties. I know they are going to do a great job and will pave the path for an expansion of this worthwhile program. If you are interested in joining, please check it out online or let me know.
Speaking of Volunteers! Do you want to get involved and find out more about Addison? We have 26 folks signed up for our Addison Citizen’s Academy and we usually close it at 30—don’t be left out! Remember, this program is only offered every other year, so the next one won’t be until the fall of 2014!
Finally, WaterTower Theatre was recently nominated to compete with charities nationwide for grants ranging from $10,000 to $250,000 from the Chase Community Giving program. North Texas residents can help ensure WaterTower Theatre’s success by simply voting for WaterTower Theatre through the Chase Community Giving program on Facebook. You can help WaterTower Theatre receive up to $250,000 by simply visiting Facebook.com/ChaseCommunityGiving and casting your vote. Remember, voting begins September 6, 2012!
Mayor’s Coffee next Wednesday, September 5, at 10:00 am at Dunn Bros on Belt Line Road.
Our second, “Lunch with the Mayor” will be held Monday, September 10. Lunch this month will feature the outstanding cuisine of Andiamo at 4151 Belt Line Road. Proprietor Mike Azad is preparing a very special lunch menu Mike for us so come on out and join us for some great food and casual conversation!
Hard to believe we are at the end of August. I sure hope you have enjoyed your summer as much as I have. There is always so much to do and enjoy right here in Addison and of course more in store for this fall. Our 25th Anniversary of Addison Oktoberfest is right around the corner—be sure to Save the Date—September 20-23.
Have a great, and safe, Labor Day weekend,