Please take a few minutes to read about the city streets improvement program, our recently completed citizen satisfaction survey, and next year’s budget.
THE BIG ISSUES
STREETS IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM
This has been a longtime in the works and to many appears as if nothing is happening. Please be assured that this is not the case. Let’s briefly discuss the path that has led to our current situation. The city saw a decrease in the sales tax revenue of almost 90%, from its peek just under 10 years ago, and for the last five-years was operating on fund balance (savings).
Approximately two-years ago the city implemented a property tax of $0.30 per $100 of valuation that generates around $500,000 annually. With the new revenue, the city was able to work with our engineering firm to provide an assessment of the streets and the likely costs for improvements, estimated at $3 million, as well as hired a city administrator to manage the day-to-day operations as well as develop a plan to complete the streets improvement project. The city administrator worked with our engineers and the Council to complete this as a single project in lieu of multiple projects over the next three-or-four years, resulting in the city saving an estimated $500,000 in fees.
With a $3 million project and the city’s limited revenue sources, a pay-as-you-go method would result in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more, as the streets continue to decline each year, requiring more funding to improve, as well as the costs of mobilization and increased cost of construction. To obtain the full amount of the project, the city needed to issue bonds, the first ever for New Fairview.
To accomplish this, staff had to complete five-years of financial audits, work with the Council to establish financial policies and present the best possible picture of New Fairview for our bond rating (credit rating for a city), which drives the cost of borrowing. In addition, we were working with residents to complete a community survey to apply for a $350,000 grant that can be used for improvement of the roads in this area. The lack of community participation in the survey required staff to make hundreds of phone calls and spend several weeks going door-to-door to obtain the necessary response rate (80%) for our application to be accepted.
Staff worked with our engineers to complete the design and engineering of the roads, which required onsite surveying of the streets, all while Covid-19 was closing down businesses and sending people home to quarantine following exposure and illness. This pandemic has led to many shortages and sky rocketing prices that most people are currently experiencing in many aspects of daily life, including automobiles, construction materials, electronics, etc.
We are required to follow strict procurement procedures which increases the amount of time required to “get things done”, including public notifications and hearings, mandatory waiting periods, requests for extensions from the contractors who bid on the project, etc. All of this had to occur multiple times prior to both the city selling the bonds as well as the city obtaining actual project bids and awarding the contract for construction. The bids that the city received ranged from $4.2 to just under $7 million.
With a $1.2 million shortfall, the city began searching for alternative options to accomplish the streets improvements and stretch the funding available. The Council approved $300,000 of additional funding from the excess building permit revenue received this year, and staff worked on a partnership with the County to provide the labor and equipment for some of the road repairs while New Fairview pays for the materials, which saved the city $100,000 but there is still a substantial gap that will need to be resolved.
In June, the contract was awarded and an agreement with Wise County was approved for the streets improvement program. An anticipated start date of the end of June was established. The contractor communicated that they would not be able to obtain the required concrete structures for the drainage improvements until July, and then again until August. With the drainage work being the first step of the project, we are delayed until these concrete structures become available and this is an issue that all cities and developers are currently struggling to obtain.
CITIZEN SATISFACTION SURVEY
The Council requested that staff obtain community input on the issues and concerns facing the City of New Fairview. Staff obtained proposals for a citizen satisfaction survey from several vendors and in April 2021, the Council selected ETC Institute to conduct the survey. ETC works with many cities in the area and thousands throughout the United States. ETC and staff worked together to develop the survey instrument that was approved by the Council and distributed to the community through mail, email, and social media starting in May and concluded in June 2021. Over 20% of the households responded, resulting in 102 survey being included in the final reports: full survey and benchmarks.
In summary, there is no single major category of city services where satisfaction levels exceed fifty-percent but residents are most satisfied with the quality of customer service from city employees (43.5%). Resident perceptions had two areas exceed 50% satisfaction, including New Fairview as a place to live (65.7%) and as a place to raise children (52.8%).
When benchmarking our results with other cities in Texas and the United States, New Fairview exceeds the Texas average satisfaction with customer service and effectiveness of city communication with the public but is below average in all other categories.
The survey asked residents to rank both the importance of the services they receive as well as their satisfaction level with the services. These two data points allow the city to create a matrix of importance and satisfaction. Overall, there is support for continued emphasis on the quality of police/fire/emergency medical services, and the greatest opportunities for improvement include, maintenance of city streets, and the quality of city water and sewer services, followed by the quality of park and recreation programs/facilities and the enforcement of city codes and ordinances.
When asked where the city should focus their financial resources, the responses indicated that public safety, maintaining city infrastructure, and transportation systems were the top three areas respectively. The surveys also showed that while the majority of residents are not satisfied with the current levels of service, across all service categories, only one-third of the residents are willing to pay an increase in property taxes to improve the services, while the other two-thirds do not wish to see any property tax increases.
CITY COUNCIL STRATEGIC PLANNING RETREAT
The City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission have been working with the Texas Rural Leadership Program to develop vision and mission statements that clearly defines our future destination, who we are and the means of change to make it happen. You may ask, why are these important?
Draft Vision Statement: New Fairview is a safe, welcoming community focused on economic vitality with open natural elements where the stars are shining brightly.
Draft Mission Statement: The City of New Fairview is actively engaged in building and developing our team to advance our rural community values into the future by providing incentives and quality services that motivate stakeholders to create built environments that organically blend open natural elements into intentional, focused areas of development that attract both families and businesses that desire to live, work, and play in a community that’s going to keep it country.
Revenues in the upcoming fiscal year are anticipated to climb slightly, from $1.4 to $1.6 million, due to increased building activity (building permits), the addition of the concrete batch plant and the associated economic development agreement to place their dispatch and sales office in New Fairview, as well as a small increase in property tax revenue, approximately $40,000, primarily due to the Falcon Ridge homes being added to the tax rolls.
The Council has continued discussions on next year’s operating budget and capital improvement budget. There has been significant discussion on what services the City should improve and what those improvements would potentially do to the property tax rate. Currently, staff has prepared a budget that maintains service levels similar to what are currently provided. Cross training of our existing staff will provide a part-time code enforcement trainee that will work with our code enforcement officer to maintain a daily presence in the community.
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has completed the preliminary scoring of the grant applications for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and New Fairview ranked number 12. TDA has announced funding for the top 16 applicants, so barring any unforeseen issues with our application and funding, we will be receiving the $350,000 grant towards the end of this year.
DARK SKY ORDINANCE
The Council has directed staff to prepare and present an ordinance to implement dark sky initiatives. These dark sky initiatives are focused on ensuring appropriate lights and fixtures are used only when and where needed. This reduces light pollution (sky glow, glare, and light trespass into neighboring properties). Staff has presented a draft ordinance to the planning and zoning commission and the city council and will be bringing back an updated ordinance for consideration in August 2021. Learn more here.
The Council approved the final plats for two projects, both in the ETJ. The first is the second phase of the Fairview Meadows residential development located in Wise County on Pioneer Road. This includes approximately 80 acres and 62 residential lots. The Second is the County Line Business Park, located in Denton County on South County Line Road, and is anticipated to build a strip mall type product, similar to the images below. This includes approximately 20 acres subdivided into 16 lots from one-to-two-acres.
The Paloma Ranch Estates, located on South County Line Road, has completed the installation of their water lines and is ready to start pulling building permits for the first 28 residential lots in their development. They have also submitted proposed a zoning and pre-annexation agreement for the final phases of their development. Staff is working the City of Fort Worth to release this area from their ETJ to New Fairview.