Burning the midnight oil in the January Council Meeting?

Posted on January 18, 2021

It’s good to know what’s going on!

The January 11th City Council meeting was packed with substantive issues, leading to much discussion and a late night. Please take a moment to thank your Council members for the time they donate to make our City a better place to live, work, and play! Here is a link to the presentation and agenda packet for the meeting.

  • The Council filled the Place 5 vacancy with Nolan Schoonmaker as well as re-established the Planning and Zoning Commission, appointing five commissioners and two alternate commissioners: Harvey Burger, Robin Craig, Don Duval, Alisa Scheps, Marissa Randolph, Rebecca McPherson, and David Randolph, respectively.
  • The Council spent a large portion of the meeting discussing the tax rate, the exemptions that are currently in place and what other options are available to the Council to provide tax relief to residents. The Council has asked for an action item to be presented on the next agenda.
  • The Council discussed hydrocarbon well setbacks, how they impact the development, and what the current ordinance setback standards are.
  • There were two development related items on the agenda, one related to a possible Ready Mix concrete plant, that could potentially bring $600,000 of new sales tax to the city, as well as the Shoop Ranch master planned community. Please see below for more details.
  • The Council has decided to conduct two meetings each month. The first meeting will continue to be the regular meeting where Council action will take place and the second will be a work session where the Council and Staff can discuss items. As the dates of these meetings are worked out, we will update the city website and social media sites to reflect the new schedule.
  • The Council discussed public safety, including: fire, medical, and police activities. Staff presented an option where the city and East Wise Fire Rescue (EWFR) better align their organizations, providing the city some oversight of the department as well as additional funding.

Planning & Zoning Commission

In the not too far past, the Council and Planning and Zoning Commission were not able to conduct city business, due to their inability to form a quorum of the respective bodies. This resulted in the Council dissolving the Planning and Zoning Commission and taking back on the responsibilities that had been delegated to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is an advisory body that holds public meetings and recommends the boundaries of zoning, enforces the the appropriate regulations, and advises the City Council on zoning applications. Further, the Planning and Zoning Commission will be deeply involved in the review and update of the city’s ordinances regarding development in New Fairview. These updates will be recommended to the City Council as amendments to the current city ordinances.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will begin holding regularly scheduled meetings in the near future. If you are interested in learning more about this, please plan on attending these meetings in the future.

General Homestead Exemptions

Currently, the city has adopted ordinances for a tax freeze (ceiling) for over 65 and disabled, a $10,000 exemption for over 65 and disabled, as well as a tiered exemption for disabled veterans:

  • $5,000 of assessed value for 10% but less than 30% disabled; or
  • $7,500 of assessed value for 30% but less than 50% disabled; or
  • $10,000 of assessed value for 50% but less than 70% disabled; or
  • $12,000 of assessed value for 70% or greater disability.

The Council has requested that the staff prepare and present an ordinance that would provide a general homestead exemption. The statute governing the ability of a municipality to offer this type of exemption allows for an exemption up to 20% of the assessed value, but no less than $5,000.

What are homestead exemptions used for?
Homestead exemptions are generally used as a tool to shift the cost of city operations from defined groups, such as elderly, disabled, or residential homeowners to business and commercial properties. Due to the lack of business and commercial entities in New Fairview, there is no real shift of the cost, just a reduction in overall revenue to the city.

A general homestead exemption would effectively reduce the property tax rate of residential homeowners from $0.30 to around $0.24 per $100 of valuation, at the full 20% exemption level.

How much would this save the average household?
The average assessed value of a property in New Fairview is just under $100,000. With a property tax rate of $0.30 per $100 valuation, that means that the average tax bill for residents in New Fairview is around $300 per year. Further, this means that if the Council chooses to offer the full 20% exemption, the average taxpayer in New Fairview would see a savings of around $60 per year, or $5 per month.

How does this impact the budget?
Using the current year’s assessed value, approximately $140 million, this exemption would reduce the city’s annual property tax revenue by approximately $80,000, over half the annual cost of the streets repair program, for the first three years.

How does this impact the street’s improvement?
The streets program is budgeted to cost the city around $0.10 of the $0.30 property tax rate. Currently, the cities revenues and expenditures are fairly evenly matched. If the city increases revenue in other areas, that offsets the loss of this revenue, then it will have little impact.

Currently, it appears that building permits and other revenues may exceed budget but these are one-time revenues that best practice states, cities should not generally consider these one-time revenues when taking on long-term financial obligations.

If the other revenues do not materialize, the city would have to look at reducing services levels to offset the loss of revenue or the most conservative approach would be to proactively reduce the scope of the streets project by around 60% to match revenues to expenditures.

How does this impact the city financially?
The city adopted a budget that adds money to the General Fund balance. This was intentional, as it impacts our bond rating, making the cost of borrowing money go down as we issue debt to reconstruct streets or do other capital projects. One of the big items that the rating agencies look at is trends in the city’s financials.

While there may be enough excess revenue coming into the budget from other sources, such as new home building permits, as well as increased tax base revenue in future years, from new home construction, it is in the best interest of the city to slightly increase the fund balance each year to establish a positive trend.

Finally, the General Fund balance acts as a “shock fund”, allowing the city to tackle tough financial years if something happens in the future that reduces city revenues, such as when the legislature changed the sales tax laws on natural gas production.

How does this impact the city long-term?
The legislature previously passed a law that did not allow a taxing entity to change/repeal this optional homestead exemption once adopted. This expired in 2019, but there is a very good chance that this will be addressed or renewed in the current legislative session that just started, meaning that if the Council adopts this, then it may become permanent.

Development Activities

North Texas is booming with growth. Northwest ISD is anticipating from 10,000 to 12,500 new homes being built within the next five years and New Fairview is right in the line of the growth path from DFW.

Active Developments
When speaking with the developers that are currently active in New Fairview for the budget development, the data we collected anticipated around 100 new homes would be constructed in New Fairview in this fiscal year. If the rate of permits continues at the current rate, the city may see as many as Based upon the current number of permits pulled, the city would see around 175 new home permits this current fiscal year and generate around $600,000 in permit fees.

New Developments
The 1,806 acre Shoop Ranch, which is generally located north of FM 407 and South County Line Road to AA Bombarger Rd and is illustrated in the image below as the area shaded light green. This tract of land has portions of the project in both Wise and Denton County. They will be presenting their concept plan to the City Council in the February 1, 2021 Council meeting.

Ready Mix Concrete Plant
The city has been approached by a group that is looking to place a concrete plant and dispatch center in New Fairview. The property is located just behind the Dollar General and would be accessed from Graham Road. The group has agreed to improve Graham Road to the end of their property in a concrete road that would handle the weight and traffic of their trucks.

The plant would also be looking to employee between 18 and 20 people in the New Fairview area as both office/clerical staff and CDL drivers. The dispatch facility would be operating for four local facilities, which means all sales tax generated from these plants would come to the city. They anticipate between $40-50 million in annual revenues, which would equate to around $600,000 in new sales tax revenue for the city.

The Council has requested that they reach out to their neighbors and get input regarding the proposed plant, as well as provide a DOT safety rating, provide details on the TCEQ required dust collection system, and water source for the plant.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

To participate in this Texas Department of Agriculture’s grant program, the city is required to solicit requests for proposals to act as the grants administrator for the $350,000 CDBG funds the city is seeking.

The city received two proposals from firms, Traylor and Associates, and GrantWorks, to act as our grants administrator. Both applicants were well qualified for the role but staff recommended to Traylor and Associates due to previous work experience with their firm.

The city is still seeking people to complete the community survey so that we can obtain the 80% participation rate to successful complete our grant application. These funds will be used in streets repair and reconstruction in low-to-moderate-income areas of the city.

To complete your survey, please contact Brooke at city hall, 817-638-5366 extension 1004. She can take your info over the phone or you can access digital version of the form here or an online form here.

Public Safety, Police, Fire, and Medical Services

One of the primary reasons that city’s exist is to provide services that may otherwise not be provided, such as police, fire, and emergency medical services. The City of New Fairview has been discussing what this looks like for many years, the city hall multi-purpose building was initially designed and constructed as a fire station and we are now seeing some of the benefits with an average reduced response time of around 50%.

With the city’s existing and new housing, it is becoming even more important to look at what the city can do to build scaffolding for future services, including ensuring the safety of structures located in close proximity to the many oil/gas wells we see in our community. Currently, homes and other occupied structures may be constructed within 200 feet of these oil/gas well sites and in an emergency, our volunteer firefighters are going to be the ones showing up to any incident.

  • Police Services – the Council was presented the number of accidents and locations that we are experiencing in New Fairview, and how many more accidents we are seeing versus what we would expect for a relatively small community. The Council approved purchases to equip our residential deputies so that we can begin to enforce safe driving within our city.
  • Emergency Medical Services – staff has discussed the possibility of placing one of the County’s ambulances in the multi-purpose facility and it appears that there may be some interest on the part of the County as well. We are planning on discussing this further to determine what that would look like and how we could help to make this happen.
  • Fire Services – these volunteers really go above and beyond to try and help make our community a safer place to live but they are struggling with adequate staffing, aging and/or dilapidated equipment, and a growing work load. Staff has discussed the current and ongoing safety needs of our community with the Council and the East Wise Fire Rescue (EWFR) volunteer department members.Staff and EWFR are seeking a way to not only improve services but add new services to the community to help make sure we are maintaining a safe place to live, work, and play. Staff presented a plan to implement a safety inspection fee on the oil/gas wells within the city limits to make sure that our residents are safe as well as provide our first responders appropriate equipment, gear, and training. In most of the surrounding communities, the city charges an annual inspection fee that helps to cover the cover the cost of the annual inspection.

    Staff will be bringing forward an ordinance amendment that would provide for the implementation of the annual safety inspections for the February meeting.

Oil/Gas Well Setbacks

Currently, the ordinance states that a new well must be 600 feet from an existing structure or they must obtain a Special Well Permit. Alternatively, the construction of a new structure that will be occupied is 200 feet from an oil/gas well.

These distances are fairly consistent with what other municipalities in the area have implemented in their ordinances as well.


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