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Council approves budget, tax rate, Bicentennial Park improvements
The Southlake City Council approved its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year during its Sept. 18 meeting.
As part of the approval, the council also OK’d the tax rate of 46.2 cents per $100 assessed valuation, as well as a $15,000 homestead exemption.
With the tax rate approval, it marks the 10th straight year the city has not increased the rate.
With the homestead exemption, the owner of a $498,500 home will pay $2,233.77 in taxes.
Highlights of the budget include a 7.1-percent increase in revenue, due mostly to an expected a $9.2 million, or 13.2 percent, increase in sales tax revenue.
The budget includes $18.3 million in property tax revenue, which is $872,000 more, or 5 percent, than last year’s budget.
The city’s taxable value increased 3.1 percent to about $5.5 billion.
Expenditures are expected to increase by 6 percent, and half of that is related to the opening of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) North facility.
Other expenditures include a park supervisor for $75,666, a DPS office assistant and a human resources analyst – both positions were frozen in 2010 – at $106,700 combined, and a 2-percent cost of living adjustment.
Capital improvement projects include facilities, which take up 62.5 percent of those expenses, as well as road projects (20.3 percent) and water projects (14.8 percent).
Upcoming projects included in the budget include $3 million set aside for the multipurpose center, the widening of North White Chapel from Emerald Avenue to Highland Street ($1 million), Phase II of the North Kimball Avenue project ($1 million) and Phase II of the widening of FM 1938 ($500,000).
One change to the budget from previous discussions is the use of red light camera funds for a traffic signal at the intersection of FM 1709 and Watermere Drive.
There was also discussion on using red light camera funds for a study and implementation of any recommendation, which could include a traffic signal, at the intersection of Federal Way and Carroll Avenue.
Another highlight of the budget is a one-cent reallocation from the debt service fund to the operations budget.
Councilman Martin Schelling praised the council and the city staff for putting the city in a favorable position regarding its debt.
“In 2002, our ratio to assessed valuation on our long-term debt was 3.29 percent,” Schelling said. “Now, we’re at 1.37 percent. I’m a big proponent on being conservative and staying on this debt. Seventy percent of the city’s debt will be retired in 10 years, including the Central DPS. We need to stay on the course because there could come a time when we’re in the same place that other communities are in now.”
Other council members were pleased with the budget as well.
“I’m happy to see a balanced budget,” said Councilman Al Zito. “We’re not cutting corners, but we’re building infrastructure and continuing on the path to meet the amenity demands of the city. And I’m happy that this council does not bite off more than it can chew.”
Councilman Jeff Wang, who voted against the budget, suggested using Southlake Parks Development Corporation (SPDC) funds for park maintenance. Other council members said that would be a discussion best for a later date when it could be more in depth.
In other business, the council approved the second reading of three items related to future work at Bicentennial Park.
The council approved a land use change, a master plan amendment and a site plan for Phase II of the park’s improvements.
Master plan amendments included a revised layout, reduction of sand volleyball courts from four to two, elimination of two Bronco fields and one Shetland Field, elimination of Spray Park, pond enhancements, six additional tennis courts and the removal of Safety Town.
Those pave the way for the site plan features, which include a 2,400-square-foot concession building, a 4,500-square-foot maintenance/park office building, the construction of two baseball fields, the improvement of three other baseball fields, 67 parking spaces and the extension of Park Boulevard from the roundabouts to N. White Chapel Boulevard.
The site plan also includes a 1.3-acre custom playground, which is what much of the presentation focused on.
“We had a set a number of goals,” said Susan Glotsman of the MIG design firm through an audio presentation. “And No. 1 was to have a unique destination play area.”
That play area is expected to integrate nature themes, be accessible for children of all abilities and be multi-generational. Other goals are to make it a free-play area, be the focal point of the park and to provide comfort even in the heat.
Once arriving at the playground, residents will see a rock formation in the shape of a dragon head, one of several dragon components used within the playground.
The entry to the playground will be one-way-in, one-way-out, providing a level of security for the children.
“The parents can feel comfortable relaxing and watching their child play,” Glotsman said.
The playground will have four main sections: a toddler area, a school-age children area, a central gathering space and a picnic spot.
Amenities within the toddler area include sand, a playhouse, a small net climb and swings.
The school-age area includes net climbing amenities, a rock wall, swings, a zip line for racing and more.
Shade will be a focus on this playground throughout.
Construction is expected to begin in April or May, 2013. The grand opening could take place September, 2014.