HP Prioritizes Homes, Safety

A decades-old town preamble emphasizes the importance of home, and in the eyes of Highland Park Town Council members, so do priorities set by their predecessors in 2013.

“I like, personally, the idea of protecting the home,” Mayor Joel T. Williams III said. “We are a residential community.”

While adoption of a new city budget and tax rate won’t come until Sept. 11, work on the budget is underway.

With public meetings on budget matters scattered over the next several months, the council, prompted by the mayor, recently reviewed, but didn’t change, priorities set four years ago.

“I think this is a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t do anything,” council member David Dowler concluded.

Council members see in the 2013 priorities an emphasis on fiscally conservative governance as well as preservation of characteristics that draw people to the town such as schools, heritage, and quality services.

“Quality services include safety,” council member Eric Gambrell said. “You’ve got to knock that out of the park.”

A thorough discussion of town taxes awaits preliminary taxable assessed values from the Dallas County Appraisal District in mid-May. Williams anticipates a 4-percent increase in property values — likely not enough to prompt talk of reducing the town’s 22 cent per $100 valuation tax rate.

“If we want to lower taxes, it’s going to come out of CIP,” the mayor said in reference to the Capital Improvement Program.

The program, funded with 6 cents of the tax rate, allows the town to save for road improvements and other major projects.

The fund allowed the town to pay for a new Town Hall building without borrowing funds, but street work was neglected and needs to be tackled now, the mayor said. “At some point it just gets to be embarrassing.”

The town is looking for ways to address drainage issues at Wycliff Avenue along Turtle Creek and is researching options for improving the Preston Road/Armstrong Avenue/Oak Lawn Avenue/Lakeside Drive intersections. Other street projects are in the works.

“I think it will be past our time on council when we might have the luxury of looking at lowering taxes,” council member John McKnight said.

While the tax rate is unlikely to change, residents will face increased charges for trash and recycling service from provider Republic Services. Beginning in October, residential alley service will increase by $2.89 a month, recycling 47 cents, and pack out service — where trash haulers come onto the property to retrieve the trash — $5.92. Republic sought the 18 percent rate increase to cover rising costs, including replacement of trucks used to serve Highland Park.

Unrelated to town budget discussions, Oncor Electric Delivery Company is proposing to hike rates by about $6.68 per month for residential consumers using 1,000 kilowatt hours. The council voted April 10 to suspend that rate request for 90 days to allow for negotiations.

COUNCIL PRIORITIES:

• Maintain respect for the town’s rich history and heritage
• Support the Highland Park Independent School District
• Provide quality town services
• Continue the town’s financial stability

TOWN PREAMBLE:

• A haven for home and fireside.
• Undisturbed by conflict of commercial and political interests.
• The function of government in Highland Park is protection of the home.
• Citizens who cherish their homes will vigilantly preserve their heritage of self-government.

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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