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Former Council member Cotti: vote Yes on all 5 bond proposals

Letter to the Editor:

There are five Bond Propositions that will be before the public for vote on May 12th. There are those in the community who do not favor the bonds for one reason or another. The picture that is being painted by some of those who oppose the bonds, unfortunately, isn’t totally accurate. I hope that this information clarifies the matter:

Most government entities have the wherewithal to fund various infrastructure programs (such as those proposed for the bond election) within their General Fund Budget. The Federal Government and State Government do this. Counties and cities do not have that ability. I won’t speak to the County because it isn’t involved in these projects but I will speak for the city side.

The City of Rockwall’s General Fund Budget is set aside to pay for those day-to-day operating expenses (police and fire protection, parks and recreation maintenance and upkeep, building maintenance and upkeep, minor street repairs, staff salaries for all departments, etc.). Other things such as building new parks, major road construction and repair, construction of new municipal facilities (fire houses, offices, etc.), and things considered to be ‘capital improvements’ require a different source of funding. In some cases there is the matter of “public necessity’ (these would include Fire Houses, Police Stations, Public Safety Facilitoes, etc.) for which citizen approval isn’t required. Other cases, such as the ones on the ballot for May 12th, do require the citizens approve the issuance of Municipal Bonds to pay for these improvements.

Now, how does the process work?

City Staff (and these are folks from all departments) identify their needs to the City Manager who puts together a listing of all the infrastructure improvements that can be foreseen over the next 3-5 years (sometimes longer). The City Manager then presents this information to the City Council who reviews, modifies where necessary, and agrees to put together a Citizens’ Committee charged with the responsibility of developing a Comprehensive Capital Improvements Program. The Council then appoints citizens from all walks of life in Rockwall (normally a committee of 15-20) to this committee.

The committee then begins a series of meetings (with Staff involvement) to review, refine, and set a recommended slate of Capital Improvements to be brought back before the Council for approval and scheduling of a Bond Election. During this time, costs are determined, schedules for work are prepared, and the impact on the Ad Valorem Tax (property taxes) is established and reported to the entire community in a worst case scenario.

For the five items that have been identified and placed on the ballot for May 12, all of the above was accomplished. The Committee (made up of citizens and not government employees) agreed that these five items are needed and recommended that they be placed before the citizens for approval. Those five items are:

1) Athletic Complex (approximately $25 Million). The last time the City of Rockwall did anything to increase the number of outdoor athletic venues or improve what we had was in the early 1990s. At that time the population of Rockwall was 12,000 and the average age was 47+. Today our population approaches 40,000 and our average age has dropped to 36. We have far more folks interested in outdoor sports than ever … and they are having to go to Rowlett, Plano, Mansfield, etc. (and pay fees) to play ball. It’s time for Rockwall to do something, not just to satisfy the needs for today but the needs of future generations.

2) Downtown Upgrades (approximately $10 Million). In 2009 the City of Rockwall was recognized as a Main Street City in Texas. We have new businesses, new restaurants, new opportunities in the Downtown area. What we are lacking is 1) adequate parking, 2) improved sidewalks, 3) improved roads, and 4) a safe area for pedestrian traffic. These are important to the merchants downtown and to the city to retain its Main Street City identification and to provide a better venue for our citizens to enjoy the rich history of Rockwall’s downtown area.

3) Fire Protection for Downtown (approximately $1.8 Million). Currently all of the structures in the downtown area of the old design. Water pressure in the area is relatively low and cannot deliver the levels necessary should a fire disaster occur. This bond proposition upgrades all of the water delivery infrastructure in the downtown area and also installs sprinkler systems in every building. These are both essential to ensure maximum protection during a fire.

4) Heritage Park (approximately $5 Million). As you know, Rockwall turned 158 years old this month. And, as you know about our history, we were named Rockwall by three well diggers who uncovered a massive rock wall underneath the soil they were digging. There are very few locations where this rock wall can be seen. The city has identified, and the property owners are agreeable to sell, a piece of land that has good exposure to the rock wall. This bond proposition will purchase the land and build an infrastructure to expose and protect the wall and will provide outstanding public access to view the rock wall, to be entertained by local artists, and to be treated to some exceptional community opportunities.

5) Road Construction (approximately $20 Million). There are a number of major thoroughfares in Rockwall that have deteriorated due to weather and other conditions that need major repairs. Additionally, there is great need to improve the on-ramp/off-ramp opportunities in the vicinity of I-30 and Ridge Rd./SH-205.

Now, to the matter of the $0.36 tax increase that has been discussed. As I mentioned earlier, if all of the bonds were to be issued in their full amount at the same time the city would have to increase the “bond reduction” side of the taxes by $0.36. You know, I know, and anyone with common sense will know that this scenario simply CANNOT and WILL NOT happen. Each of these five propositions is phased in the manner in which work will be accomplished and, as such, the bonds will be issued only when necessary to pay for the work to be done. This will be spread over an extended period of time that will run between 5 and 10 years. Also, during this same time frame bonds that have been previously issued will be paid off resulting in a tax rate offset.

For example, I have to issue bonds in 2014 that will raise taxes by $0.03. But in 2014, I will retire bonds that I have been paying for that will reduce taxes by $0.015. So … the real increase in taxes is only $0.015. All of these rates are, of course, based on $100 of property valuation as assessed by the Rockwall Central Appraisal District.

So, at the bottom line, the City of Rockwall is placed in a bit of a predicament. First, it has responsibility to all of its citizens to ensure that they have the best possible infrastructure to meet their every day needs. Although not everyone will take advantage of all of the infrastructure, our friends and family will. The other side of the coin on that is that the city has ONLY one means of acquiring the funds necessary to provide this infrastructure and that is from the citizens it serves in the form of a Bond Election. There are no other sources of funding for these improvements. There is no entry in the City Budget that reflects income from the Federal Government. Nor are there entries reflecting income from the State or County. We must rely 100% on ourselves to meet our needs.

A couple of additional points also need clarification. First … these Bond Propositions are solely for the City of Rockwall. They are in no way tied or related to any of the County’s Bond Propositions past or future. Secondly, there have been a couple of suggestions that the City spend its funds to expedite completion of the road work on FM740 to the South of Interstate 30. That project is the responsibility of TxDOT. The only responsibilities that Rockwall ever had in this effort was: 1) Right of Way acquisition, and 2) Landscaping upon completion (and this only goes as far south as Chandlers’ Landing).

So, at the bottom line I would request that the Citizens of Rockwall research and understand what the City is trying to do, then determine whether or not they wish to support these Bonds. It has been said that, “Now is not the time.” In response I would say, “There will never be a better time than today.”

Bob Cotti

Former Rockwall City Council Member

Comments

comments

3 Responses to Former Council member Cotti: vote Yes on all 5 bond proposals

  1. We cannot simply sit idly by while our community continues to grow and play catch up. What’s the cost of that?

    $.15 per $100 of valuation. This equates to $315 per home valued at $200,000 or $26 per month. This is also pending ZERO growth which has not happened in Rockwall in the last 50+ years.

    ‘nough said

    VOTE YES TODAY!!!!

    Kent Barnett May 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm
  2. The current Rockwall bond election appears to be a “super wish list” during a tough economy, designed for the “select few”. Obviously, little regard has been given to current city debt of $5922 for each person, county debt of $1345 per person, and school debt of over $9,000 per person. Have the people pushing for these bonds not heard of the Bloomberg report, that average household income has dropped $4300 in the last three years? Is it responsible to ask for the city to increase taxes over 35 percent? It seems we have a “spending problem” in this community, not a “wish problem”.

    There has never been a better time to make government accountable, from the local level all the way to the federal level. Let’s not allow Rockwall to spend even more on the heels of taxes having been increased from .30 per $100 valuation to .51 per $100 valuation during our last mayor’s six-year tenure. “Goodies” are great IF you can afford them. What are our priorities–keeping taxes down or spending our children’s future for a $25M sports complex, etc.? And consider this–why would “out-of-towners” be contributing over 60 percent of the cost to campaign for this bond election?

    It seems there are a lot of questions with a lot of answers. Can we afford another $60M in debt for sprinkling private properties on the square when most property owners are required to pay for their own sprinkler systems? Can we afford a mega-sports complex for out-of-towners when, at the current time, we might be able to afford only an upgrade and expansion of the ball fields we already have? Do we really need a facility to view the rock wall when so many citizens are dealing with foreclosures and unemployment, and others are struggling to “make ends meet”? I think not!

    Please look at your priorities as well as your future. Your money is YOUR money, not the government’s, whether it be city, county or federal.

    Ken Dickson May 2, 2012 at 12:20 am
  3. I agree with Mr. Cotti on one solitary point: Voters should research how city of Rockwall taxes have jumped three times in ten years and this will be another significant increase at 36.14%, if all five pass.

    In one’s own household, if you have to borrow money, lots of money, each time you buy something you want, at some point your FICO score will plummet.

    My friend Lorne Liechty, City of Heath councilman, recently compared Heath’s property tax with our property tax. He pointed out we have had three major tax increases in ten years, while property taxes have remained unchanged in Heath for fifteen years.

    Mr. Cotti may be living on a different planet from the rest of us. On our planet, national debt now exceeds gross domestic product. Our federal government has operated 3 1/2 years without a budget, borrowing 43% of every dollar it spends while continuously expanding spending programs, trying to spend us out of recession.

    We will have the largest tax increase in our history come January 2013. If ObamaCare survives the Supreme Court, it will add nineteen more taxes.

    Meanwhile, the Obama administration reports reports unemployment at 8.2%, but it is at or above 14.5%, according to numerous credible sources.

    According to DSNews.com, a mortgage industry news service, 2.3 million children lost their homes in the first wave of foreclosures and 3.0 million will lose their homes in the second wave.

    Our economy is not independent of the nation, and most certainly not independent of the global economy. Presently, Europe is close to meltdown. The Greek financial crisis has not been resolved, despite reports of it absent from most news media. Greece, Spain (unemployment now over 24%), Portugal, Italy and other member states of the European Union are in desperate trouble, trouble that will touch us here in the States.

    If the economy was actually growing (2.2% is NOT viable growth), I would welcome all five bond propositions. When the Fed stops pumping greenbacks into the economy, and it will, we will see spirally inflation, dramatic declines in industrial output and that second wave of foreclosures.

    Years ago I was on the Parks Board when we crafted our land acquisition ordinance. Along with two others on the subcommittee, we walked miles of potential trails and dreamed of neighborhood parks that are now reality. Parents requesting more ball fields regularly contacted us and spoke at our meetings. Speaking on behalf of all members of the board at that time, our common goal was to continuously improve quality of life.

    I don’t object to the bond propositions for any reason other than economic uncertainty.

    This is the first time I have fought a bond election. Readers can learn more from my blog at RockwallConservative.me

    Mr. Cotti’s farewell line, “There will never be a better time than today” defies reality.

    I submit to the readers that this is not a good time to add millions more debt to our already debt-laden city. Let’s be good stewards of our resources and educate ourselves to economic forces that at play.

    I ask you to vote NO to all five bond propositions. Polls open for early voting through May 8 and election day is May 12. It’s your future and your children’s debt.

    John White May 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm

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