From the Office of the City Manager
As City Manager, I wanted to take a moment and inform our community on some of the major progress we have made economically in our city over the past five years. This update cover topics such as road repair/construction, public facilities, commercial/residential development, and the tax rate, among others.
Our recent independent annual audit was presented to the City Council in April, 2023. A video of the audit firm's (Patillo, Brown & Hill, LLP) presentation at the April 24, 2023 City Council meeting is embedded below. We welcome and encourage any citizen to come and review this report, along with our budget, in person at City Hall. These are also available to view online here.
As your City Manager it is exciting to update our residents on the turnaround taking place in our great city. These improvements will serve us well as we position ourselves to become even more economically competitive in attracting the types of businesses and amenities that our valued citizens desire. It is important to remember, over the past several years the City Council has lowered the property tax rate to it's lowest rate since 2010. This is remarkable considering all that we have accomplished. While it's true that property values have increased (determined by the Tarrant County Appraisal District and the real estate market), in the past we were not able to lower the tax rate due the city's limited tax base. The recent record economic growth helped us broaden the tax base to a point that we were able to take care of capital needs while significantly lowering the tax rate. When we are able to lower the tax rate we can, to an extent, offset the increasing taxable values. Again, these property values are determined by the Tarrant County Appraisal District and the real estate market, not by Haltom City.
The right kind of development is key to bringing an influx of new money into our city. This ensures the tax burden does not fall predominately on the shoulders of our taxpayers. Other revenue streams are starting to increase significantly. These include such things as our development fees and sales tax. These added revenue streams are finally starting to outpace our property tax revenue, and as a result they are helping to offset residential property taxation. In the past, we had become too reliant on property tax rates to keep up with maintaining a crumbling infrastructure. All this is now changing. According to the State Comptroller, Haltom City is in the top 100 out of 1,221 Texas cities in producing sales tax revenue. Lowering the tax rate is also instrumental in attracting new businesses.
Road Repair & Reconstruction
Our Mayor, City Council Members, and staff have been listening very carefully to our citizens for the past several years. As a result, we have funded more road improvements over the past five years than ever before.
The spreadsheet included in the 2023 Economic Update (PDF file) communicates the commitment this council and city staff have made and will continue to make regarding road replacements and repairs. Streets take a long time to build, as they include extensive design, engineering and constructions phases. It is important to remember that when roads are replaced the drainage, water, and sewer infrastructures are also replaced. These added costs and inherent time delays are often not considered by the general public. It is our practice to not build new streets over 20-50 year old utilities. Additionally, we must work and coordinate with other non-city utilities, such as gas and fiber optic lines, etc.
We have committed approximately $72 million to road replacement and repair. This includes projects from the last five years as well as current projects that are funded and under the design phase. Additionally, we are planning an estimated $36 million in future road projects. Our City Council, over the past several years, has committed more to street replacement/repair than at any time in the past. The totals amount to approximately $100 million tax dollars at work for street repair and replacement.
Back to the Basics
In the past couple of years residents overwhelmingly voted for the much-needed replacements of City Hall, Police Department, and Fire Station #3. We were also finally able to relocate and remodel the new Senior Center so that our seniors would have the necessary space and accommodations they need and deserve. City employees are now paid competitive wages when compared with our neighboring cities. This ensures we can attract and retain the best staff possible. Our citizens deserve the best services we can provide and we are working diligently towards that goal.
Several years ago, city leaders and administrative staff produced a new economic development plan. The old plan of just waiting for a “ship to come in” was not working. Some in the past thought location and access was enough. It was not enough. Time and decay had proven this to be true. Location and access are great assets, but it still takes money to be competitive. Although we have a great city with great people, we did not have an abundance of discretionary income amongst our citizens. When there is no significant discretionary money to spend there is no shortcut to attracting development. In fact, development leaves if there is no discretionary income, a high tax rate, and low valuations. This is exactly the scenario we found ourselves in, with the economic decisions of the distant past placing us near a point of no return as it relates to revitalizing our great city.
We knew we needed to diversify and attract other revenue generating businesses. Although we love all our small businesses, we had become too saturated with certain businesses that simply did not create enough revenue to produce an environment of community growth and prosperity. So, we returned to the basics, and as a result we are turning the city around. Our “Back to the Basics Plan” included a three-step approach, all with the goal of getting more investment dollars directed to our city so we could create an environment where businesses prospers and families flourish.
- Step One
- The first step was to attract the highest and best use (i.e. profitable) businesses by rezoning for large distribution and warehouse centers. These business parks, with an eye towards e-commerce, will serve us well moving forward. They bring our city jobs, industry, symbiotic partnerships, and a significant influx of new daytime money. These new employees bring shopping dollars from other cities, as they purchase goods and services from our local merchants (fill their cars with gas, patronize our businesses, and eating locally). We learned by experience...these types of developments insulate cities from recessionary times, pandemics, and inflationary impacts. During tough economic times cities that are too reliant on retail tend to not weather economic downturns as well as those with a more diversified and resilient tax base.
- Step Two
- The second step was to attract new residents at a higher income level, providing an influx of new nighttime money that can attract and sustain new merchants.
- Step Three
- The third step was to increase our code enforcement efforts by enlarging the Code Compliance Department. We are now handling over 5,000 code cases a year, ensuring minimum community standards will be met throughout Haltom City as it relates to code compliance.
All these efforts have created more than a billion dollars of new overall valuations. An additional billion dollars of new growth will be realized once the current development projects are completed over the next several years. This new growth will produce approximately 5,000 new jobs and bring in 5,000 new residents.
Additionally, the City Council recently approved a 740+ acre Tax Increment Revitalization Zone (TIRZ). This zone follows the corridors of Denton Hwy. (South of Loop 820) to Belknap St. and Belknap St. to Beach St. This zone is designed to provide incentive for developers to revitalize the southern portion of Haltom City. As our new growth continues to mature, this TIRZ District will be in place for developers to revitalize this area of our city. This is the first revitalization zone ever created and funded by any Haltom City Council, ever.
The city currently has development agreements that will bring in numerous restaurant, retail, and entertainment options. As soon as interest rates come down and the national economy bounces back these developments will move forward. We are also negotiating several other development possibilities that will attract the types of businesses and amenities that our citizens desire and deserve. These retail developments would not be possible if we did not utilize the “Back to the Basics Plan” described above.
If we kept doing what we always did, we would have gotten more of the same...a declining city with a high tax rate, low valuations that yield low equity wealth to the owner, low alternative revenue streams, and no discretionary money to provide for road replacement, public facilities, and city services. Clearly, these facts reinforce the view that in the future the city would have continued to place all the pressure on the shoulders of the residents with little return on investment. You might hear from some about vacant buildings. This is a reality and always will be a reality to some extent. All cities lose businesses and gain businesses every year. Our commercial vacancy rate is lower than some of our surrounding neighbors. Property owners will generally start making improvements and updating their buildings as our city starts to attract new developments and our economic turnaround continues to bring new money into our town. The plan is working. Things are being done and progress is being made. Recent accomplishments, milestones that have never been realized in our city’s past, prove this point. The plan is working...things are being done and progress is being made.
Recap of Performance & Accomplishments
- Lowest tax rate since 2010
- Record new Economic Development
- Commercial – approximately 2 million square feet
- Residential – estimated 2 thousand residential units
- Record Commitment to road replacement and repair
- New City Hall
- New Police Station
- New Fire Station
- New Senior Center
This all only scratches the surface in describing all the efforts of the Mayor, City Council, and staff. I am so thankful and honored to serve as your City Manager. I appreciate all the direction and support of the Mayor and the City Council. I am also so thankful for all the city staff. We have the least number of employees per capita of any city in Northeast Tarrant County. Our staff is designed to stay lean, but they are extremely effective. Finally, I'd like to thank our community and citizens for all their support and volunteerism (including those serving on our boards and commissions). Our residents truly make Haltom City a place to call home.
We are on the right track, and we will continue to create an environment where businesses prosper and families flourish.
Respectfully and Sincerely,
Haltom City, Texas