Today the Mayor sent out this email, I’ve added my comments in red to explain to the Mayor how the City’s finances actually work. SMH
What can you get for about $100 a month?
Each month when I pay my cable bill and it’s over $100, I wonder what I am really getting for my 100 bucks — other than frustrated when my movies won’t download correctly or it comes in all scrambled and I have to call customer something and spend 15 minutes (ha) getting it to work right. My electric bill, especially around this time of year, is up over $100 a month as well. I’m happy with my electric service; two or three times a year we lose power during a storm, but it’s always back on in about 20 minutes. Cell phone bill? Ouch. Definitely more than $100 a month.
Once a year, I also pay my property tax bill. What you may not realize is that only 17 PERCENT of the property taxes you’re paying go to the city (the rest goes to the county and Keller ISD)Did you forget Hospital District and Community College District?, . For the average Keller homeowner, whose home was valued at $284,237 in 2014, that means they paid $1,242.66 in city property taxes this year — just $103.55 a month.
What do we get for a little over $100 a month?
Well, I know when I call 9-1-1, I have an award-winning police force ready to come to my service. 911 service is paid for by fees collected on all of our phone bills. We also have a regional center where other cities pay to be part of the service. This doesn’t come from your “$100 a month” When I’ve been stopped and given a speeding ticket, they were professional and courteous (though I now follow them on Facebook to know the location of the traffic enforcement officers); I’ve seen them give Ice Cream “Citations” to children for wearing helmets while riding their bikes, locate missing loved ones and assist stranded motorists; and I know our crime is lower in Keller than it has been in 18 years despite double the population. I also know that they are the only police department in the State of Texas that is accredited at both the state and federal level on their police standards.
Sticking with my 9-1-1 call for another minute, I also have access to one of the most skilled fire departments in the state. They stand ready to save lives on a daily basis (and often do); they’ve been honored by the American Heart Association for their incredible work with heart attack victims; they work to educate our children, keep our businesses safe, and prevent fires (and of course, fight them); and if a disaster were ever to befall Keller, they would be there to evacuate, rescue and revive — every Keller firefighter is cross-trained as a paramedic.
That same $100 or so also gets me access to a gold-standard park and recreation system with nearly 20 miles of beautiful, well-maintained trails and one of the best, most vibrant and utilized parks systems in the state. A park system that is partially funded with a ½ cent sales tax, again, not completely from that “$100 a month” I can Rock the Park every September, go Fishing for Fun three times a year, chill with 1,500 of my friends and neighbors at Keller Summer Nights enjoying live music, outdoor movies and picnics at Keller Town Hall, and more. My kids play sports at the Keller Sports Park Funded entirely from the ½ cent sales tax, and when we go to The Keller Pointe Again, funded 100% from ½ cent sales tax, not a dime of general fund revenue (the $100 a month the mayor is talking about) has ever gone to the Pointe— wow! That place has won national awards for outstanding fitness and aquatics, and it shows.
Don’t get me started on our city buildings. Keller Town Hall is beautiful Funded by the TIF district, not from general fund revenue…well, until 2018; you would never believe it’s 12 years old because it is so well maintained. Our police station, same way New PD funded 100% from Crime Prevention ¼% sales tax. I hope you haven’t had a real reason to visit our Regional Jail, but if you do, you will be impressed. Even more impressive is our Regional Animal Adoption Center. OMG! You have to check this out whether you’re in the market for a new pet or not; nothing short of first class for our four-legged friends.Again, funded from the Crime Prevention fund. Each of these buildings, from fire stations to the Municipal Service Center, reflects the pride and professionalism that our city staff have and delivery to our citizens every day.
What else? Oh yes, how about reading with 1,700 of your little neighbors at our library this summer as part of our popular Summer Reading Club? We’ve invested in an RFID system to efficiently check materials in or out, and boy are there a lot of them: The library circulates more than 500,000 books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and more every year, to say nothing of the great selection of online resources, community programs and family-friendly events. Why so busy? The Keller Public Library is one of only a few dozen that has achieved the statewide Achievement of Library Excellence Award, and they’ve done so now five years running. Stroll next door, and the Keller Senior Activities Center is keeping our seniors active and engaged throughout the week, providing opportunities for fitness, fun, crafts, companionship, travel and more.
I drive on streets that are some of the best in Northeast Tarrant County. I saw Mt. Gilead Road get reconstructed over the past two summers and work begin a few weeks ago on South Keller-Smithfield. Mt. Gilead was a joint project with Tarrant County, a way to get some of our county taxes back to the city. We also have a ¼% sales tax for road improvement which makes up the balance of funding projects like Mt. Gilead and Keller Smithfield. I’ve watched work finish this year on the intersection of Hwy. 377 and FM 1709, and begin at the other end of town on FM 1938. And I see more than $1 million of street repairs done each year inside our city. As a bonus, I also get my streets plowed when it snows; Keller is one of the only cities in DFW that does that! Snow plow? I wonder who came up with that idea?
My trash and recycling get picked up religiously; the city provides opportunities to shred documents, dispose of my household chemicals and recycle my electronics twice a year; and I can even get rid of brush and tree limbs easily enough through garbage pickup or the city’s Yard Waste Drop-Off program. Again, not a dollar of this comes from the general fund, but we actually pay for this through our water/trash bill. This is typical government speak…look at what we do for you? Oh yeah, you pay for that anyway, whether you use it or not.
And while these are the people I can see and the things I can do, and they’re incredible, I know there is a whole lot more. During this past year, I’ve spent well over 1,000 hours watching, talking, listening and working with our city employees. I can assure you that there is an entire army (very small army) of dedicated men and women who are behind the scenes serving our city day and night, every day of the year — from first responders on the night shift to IT staff that keep all the systems running; the backroom accountants who earn finance awards 25 years in a row to the guys mowing the grass and cleaning the restrooms at the park; the crews that show up at 3 a.m. to begin sanding the streets to the workers fixing leaks in our water infrastructure on the weekends. I have watched our employees pursue excellence. They work hard, push themselves to learn more, stay late and come in early, volunteer without pay, go the extra mile. I am proud to have them as our city employees and you should be, too. They are some of the best! Then why have you run off over a dozen high level staff members since you were elected?
To know that our residents get all of those services and amenities for a little over $100 a month on average is astounding to me. I, for one, can confidently say that I’m getting my money’s worth. Yeah, sure you can. It’s just you don’t really know where the money comes from that funds all of these little projects you talk about. It sure doesn’t come from the $100 a month
Now if only I could get that movie to download. Maybe you can download “City Finances for Dummies”