The May election for city council is history. Now, it's summer. It's hot. It's vacation time. Do we have to start paying attention to city government again already? I'm afraid so. The July after an election is the most critical month for Richardson's city council for the next two years. It's when the new council sets its goals for its two-year term. It's when the annual budget process begins. It's when the script for the rest of the year, the rest of the two-year council term, is written. The rest pretty much plays out as written in these dog days of summer.
Starting with the Statement of Goals defined by the 2009-2011 City Council and the 2010-2011 Budget, here's what I would like to see continued and what I would like to see changed.
- Make sure the 2011-2012 budget is "balanced." The recent election had a very unsatisfactory debate about what a "balanced budget" even means and whether or not Richardson's past budgets were "balanced." So, here's my bottom line: In the 2011-2012 budget, I want the line labeled "Net Budget Revenues" ($179,699,540 in the 2010-2011 budget) to be bigger than the line labeled "Net Budget Appropriations" ($181,781,618 in the 2010-2011 budget).
- Keep the tax rate the same. In the last election, the candidates couldn't agree on whether taxes have gone up, how much, and over what time period. But I'm pretty sure they all agreed that they wanted to avoid a rate increase in the 2011-2012 budget. So, I'll be comparing the tax rate in the new budget with the current $0.63516 per $100 of assessed valuation. The city can increase water fees or solid waste collection fees if those costs have gone up, but let's explore cuts to other services before raising the basic property tax rate.
- Without dropping the ball on redevelopment of Spring Valley Corridor or transit-oriented development (TOD) at US75/PGBT, let's begin looking at Main Street redevelopment and TOD at Arapaho Road Station. And by Main Street redevelopment, I don't mean finding ways to squeeze more cars through that choke point. Just the opposite is needed.
- Promote the development of a Cotton Belt DART line, connecting with the DART Red Line at PGBT Station and extending the reach of DART to UT-D and DFW Airport.
- Find ways to facilitate walkability east-west across Central Expressway at Spring Valley, Main Street, Arapaho, Campbell and Renner Roads. Find ways to facilitate walkability north-south along the length of the DART Red Line in Richardson.
- I guess we're going to have a citizen committee review the need for changes to the City Charter. The City Council needs to keep a tight rein on this process.
- Some things to drop from Richardson's goals: adding yet more signage for neighborhoods and entry portals for the city; getting access to those Central Expressway HOV lanes; and replacing the senior property tax exemption with a senior tax freeze.