WPCG is collecting questions and sharing answers. If you have a question, chances are there are others who have the same one. WPCG will find a WP citizen who will benefit from the research and the sharing.
The first installment of Council Runnebaum's "Questions for the Council" covered City Organization & Management and Roads & Infrastructure. This article covers City Finances and City Development. Both articles are excerpts of a letter City Council Place 3 Greg Runnebaum wrote in response to visiting his constituents door-to-door in May.
I had the opportunity to meet with several Willow Park citizens during the run-up to the most recent elections. During these conversations I heard a LOT of positive comments about the city and several people had questions. Since these questions covered many of the primary issues and projects in Willow Park, I presume others have similar questions and concerns so I have prepared this article to address them publicly.
What is the correct process for handling the budget and tax payer funds?
The WP fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 31. Each year a budget is prepared by City Staff with input from council and citizens. WP has an outside financial advisor who provides an assessment to the city when any new debt is being considered. The advisor will evaluate existing debt load, the payoff period of that debt, and makes estimates of taxes and ability to support any new debt. WP also uses an outside firm to audit the city. An annual audit is performed to review the financial transactions and identify any items that need to be further reviewed or corrected. This audit is made available to the public.
What is the Tax Incentive Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) and how does it work?
WP approved the TIRZ in 2016. The TIRZ is a method WP can use to pay for improvements that will draw private investment to the Zone (old horse track area). Tax increment financing isn’t a new tax; instead, it redirects some of the ad valorem tax from property in the designated zone to pay for improvements in the zone. The developer installs major streets, sewer, water, power so that development of the land may start. This form of financing places the risk burden on the developer and not on WP. WP still receives the full sales tax from businesses in the zone. WP has a TIRZ board made of government, staff and private citizens that reviews the progress in the TIRZ and must approve ad valorem tax payment to the developer. The city government TIRZ board members are the mayor and one council member. I am the council member on the TIRZ board.
What’s the big deal about sales tax revenue?
WP contracted the services of an outside consulting company to do a retail study in 2018. This study indicated there are hundreds of millions of dollars in retail sales that WP is missing out on. WP could never capture all these sales, but it is possible to capture a portion of these sales.
To capture some of this sales revenue, WP must be proactive to partner with business. WP can be a partner with business by working with the state to make changes to I-20 so there is access to more property along the interstate. There are some concepts being looked at for accessing this property. WP staff and government officials are working with authorities in Austin to help with funding these changes.
What is the process for new development in WP?
The development approval steps include the following:
Does City Council vote in alignment with Planning and Zoning Board?
City Council is not obligated to vote in full agreement with P&Z Board. With that said, there have been several dozen actions brought before council from P&Z over the past 5 years. I do not recall an instance where City Council voted different from the P&Z and city staff recommendation. If anyone knows of a specific instance in the past 5 years, I’ll be happy to address it.
Do I need to worry about annexation?
Texas Local Government Code allows cities to have Extraterritorial Jurisdiction that is contiguous to the city boundary. As a general law city, Willow Park cannot simply annex land into the city from the ETJ. The land owner is required to request annexation into Willow Park.
Is Willow Park operating legally?
Yes. In 2018, [name of Willow Park citizen] contacted the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality accusing the city of illegal activity. All three agencies reviewed the accusation and notified WP that the accusations were baseless and that WP is operating and reporting in compliance with regulations.