Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars
With a new, careful review of all expenditures and a revised money management plan, I believe the city can be a better steward of taxpayer funds.
Balancing the Budget
The city budget is currently $826,069,738. That is close to $1 billion dollars! However, we are unable to balance our budget.
To meet obligations, the city is dipping repeatedly into its reserve fund. Currently, the city’s policy is to maintain the reserve fund balance at between 15% and 20% of the budgeted annual expenses of the general fund. The fund is not intended be used for day-to-day expenses, but should be dedicated to true emergencies and/or unexpected opportunities.
The fund balance will cease to provide essential protection, if we continue to rely on the reserve fund to balance the budget. I believe, however, that we can balance the budget without compromising the reserve fund. Any surplus in excess of the policy level could be applied to repayment of debt or pay-as-you-go funding.
Avoiding Tax Increases
During the recession of 2008, our city staff worked tirelessly to cut costs without cutting city services. Frankly, they did an excellent job. While many of our surrounding communities were cutting services and laying off employees, including public safety personnel, Denton maintained city services and appropriate staff. Now that the crisis seems to have passed, city spending is again increasing. I am concerned we may no longer be maximizing our budget dollars.
All aspects of the budget should be examined to identify and correct any inefficiencies in the budget before taxes are increased. Balancing the budget – without drawing from the reserve fund – will clarify priorities.
Bond Obligations and Debt
At this moment, you and I, the Denton taxpayers, are obligated for more than $750,000,000 in bond indebtedness. This figure does not include the bond proposal currently under consideration. While debt is not inherently bad, I propose that the city implement long-term policies that will allow us to pay as we go on smaller projects, where appropriate, and reduce our dependency on debt. Some large projects require more debt funding because they are very expensive.
The addition of new economic development strategies will decrease the need for tax increases and fees on citizens and businesses.
We have a great city, but we can do better. We can have better roads, parks, public safety facilities, libraries and other city assets, but they all cost money. Funding for such projects and amenities comes primarily from property and sales tax revenue. The city’s economic development policies and practices directly impact our ability to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of this revenue.
In addition to current efforts pursued in partnership with the Denton Chamber of Commerce, the city must become more focused as we target and recruit new businesses and retain existing businesses.
At times, our current economic development policies and perceptions of our anti-business reputation are working against our long-term goals of higher paying jobs and higher end housing stock and retail development.
To improve the quality of life for all citizens and advance our long-term goals, we must (1) pursue a more robust, proactive approach to economic development and (2) implement policies that will reverse the city’s anti-business reputation.
If we do not, the only other source of funding available for basic city services and quality-of-life amenities is increased taxes and fees on our citizens and businesses.
Economic Development Partnership Board expansion
To provide maximum impact and inclusion by our community regarding economic development initiatives, as Mayor, I will propose that the membership of the Denton Economic Development Partnership (EDP) Board be expanded to include a representative from the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce and a representative from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and that both be full voting members.
Economic Development and DISD
Maximizing the city’s economic development activities will positively impact funding for our great public school system.
As the city attracts higher revenue producing businesses through more efficient economic development policies, Denton Independent School District will enjoy increased revenues from the resulting broader tax base.
Historic Preservation / New Development
New development and historic preservation can co-exist peacefully, while complementing each other.
As a lifelong native of Denton, I have witnessed a remarkable transformation in this city. What was once a small college town with only one high school has grown into a thriving, vibrant city rich in history, diversity and culture.
My grandparents lived on West Oak St., and the house had been in our family for many years. I recently had an opportunity to visit the current owner, who was gracious enough to let me tour the old home place and relish the memories.
In the past, the goal was to move Denton forward to become a more progressive, modern city; historic preservation was not a priority. As a result, significant historic homes and buildings were demolished in the name of progress.
One such example was the two-story house next door to my grandparents’ home, which was demolished to make room for an apartment building. I am sure others in our community can report similar sad losses to our history and culture.
For many years, those who value historic preservation — and understand the economic benefit and quality-of-life contribution preservation brings — have fought hard and valiantly to ensure Denton does not sacrifice its historic assets on the altar of progress.
Preservationists’ efforts have paid off handsomely in many ways, including creation of the Oak-Hickory Historic District, West Oak Area Historic District, Bell Avenue Historic Conservation District, and the Denton County Courthouse Square, which includes locally landmarked buildings and other historic properties and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The value of these districts and properties not only has held firm but continues to increase. The historic properties in and around the Square and their neighboring buildings now command the highest per-sq.-ft lease rates and sales prices in Denton.
Denton is experiencing rapid growth in new development and construction, and many new projects are being located in the downtown area and historically significant neighborhoods. As expected, tension is rising due to the perceived competing interests of historic preservationists and developers.
However, new development and historic preservation can coexist peacefully, while complementing each other. Such coexistence requires commitment by all parties, including elected officials and city staff, to work collaboratively to facilitate solutions that will achieve optimal results.
Denton has a unique opportunity to offer the best of both worlds: (1) a community rich in history and culture with historic downtown charm, and (2) a progressive city that offers the amenities of a thriving metropolitan suburb, including public transit and an abundance of shopping, restaurants and entertainment. We must be careful not to sacrifice our historic and cultural assets for short-term gain.