In which I send voluminous letters to local politicians

To the Honorable John Harper, Esteemed Council Members and City
Manager Craig Owens

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I write to you in regards to the proposed budget submitted at the work
session on 7/19/2007. I, as a citizen and taxpayer of Rowlett, find
this document to be problematic in a number of ways.

Let me start with the Library, as it is my greatest concern. Were the
suggestions in this work session document to be implemented, and more
than 20% of the total budget be slashed, it would have the following
effect on the Library and the citizens of Rowlett:

1.) We would no longer meet the state requirements for accreditation,
which means we would lose access to the TexShare Databases (an annual
value of $170,102.00). Please note that those research tools are not
available at any public K-12 schools in this area. Only the library
has those tools. Rowlett citizens would no longer have access to
interlibrary loans with any of the other county, regional or state
libraries, and we would lose the $17,447 dollars slated for the 2008
budget from the State of Texas, as well as losing the ability to apply
for any private grants, such as those offered by the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation.

2.) We would lose many of the programs which provide extraordinary
value to the citizens of Rowlett, such as the children’s story time
programs as well as those programs which assist the elderly and the
economically disadvantaged. As an example, more than 2000 kids read
17,000 hours in the Summer Reading Club. Just this summer, over
42,000 people checked out over 95,600 items. The library is not an
underused facility. If anything, the library needs more resources,
not less.

3.) It would reduce the library services to a level not seen since we
were a town of 5,000 people, a completely unacceptable scenario in a
city with a tax base as high as ours.

4.) Putting the Library under Parks and Services is an ill conceived
idea. There is zero commonality between the two departments other
than the fact that reading under a tree is a pleasant way to spend an
afternoon.

I recommend that you read Making Cities Stronger, a study done by the
Urban Libraries organization (
http://www.urbanlibraries.org/files/making_cities_stronger.pdf ). The
Urban Libraries Council commissioned this study to look at how public
libraries contribute to the human dimension of economic development.
In the process, researchers also uncovered more evidence of the
important contributions public libraries make to strengthening places
and community quality of life.

Before you doom Rowlett to being a backwater of Rockwall and Garland
by sending us back to the 1980’s level of service, I beg you to
consider the actual value of the library to the community. Please let
me know if you would like to review other studies that elucidate the
value of a libraries to the community, and the value of a literate
population.

Leaving the library and moving towards the other sections of this
proposed budget, it appears to me that a significant number of
suggested budget changes are in direct contradiction with the Guiding
Principles for Reallocation of the Operating Budget.

For instance; this work session document suggests removing a number of
Front-Line personnel, an action that will directly impact service
received by Rowlett citizens.

On John Harper’s site, he quotes the statistics that say the
population has grown 12%, but city employee numbers have risen 40%,
and he considers that to be excessive. However, what Mayor Harper and
the council are not considering is that the 40% increase was to bring
our infrastructure into line with the needs of the city. We were
significantly understaffed in comparison to any other city of our
size, and our infrastructure was that of a rural community. As we’ve
become a suburban bedroom community of Dallas, we’re playing catch-up
with infrastructure, and thus the current staffing barely meets the
infrastructure needs of the future. I also find it unethical that a
number of long term employees are slated for termination as they near
retirement age.

Rowlett is sitting on millions and millions of dollars of salable land
that is highly desired by developers. While I love parks as much, or
perhaps more, than most people, there are a number of “future
projects” which could be sold with no detriment to the citizens. As
well, we could save almost a million dollars by not purchasing *more*
undeveloped land at current real estate prices which are inflated and
unjustifiable. We are an award winning green city already, with
recognition from the Arbor Society among others. While I wouldn’t
dream of eliminating any existing parks; in a situation where one must
consider either selling one’s children, or selling one’s family
silver…perhaps selling the silver is a better alternative.

We need Animal Control, and utility maintenance, a well equipped and
staffed Fire and Police department, Parks and Service personnel, and
experienced customer service personnel significantly more than we need
undeveloped land.

The same goes for tax abatements to billion dollar corporations. I’ve
heard the arguments that if we don’t give them abatements then they
won’t come here, and I find the argument specious. The fact is that
we have a 50,000+ population with an average household income over
$65,000. Retailers aren’t stupid. We don’t have the tax base to try
to compete with Garland, the 9th biggest city in Texas, when it comes
to tax abatements. Those occasions where have done that, we’ve been
deceived by the corporations; i.e., Walmart and Home Depot both built
bigger, better, prettier stores not 10 minutes from the stores here,
drawing the Garland demographic that was “planned” to come to Rowlett.
Considering the infrastructure impact and expense of both of those big
box retailers, I believe we’ve probably lost money with no real
benefit to the citizens.

I realize that there were many boondoggles in the budget during the
last administration’s reign. And those boondoggles will need to be
fixed. However, trying to fix years of mistakes in one budget session
by eliminating our most experienced city employees and our most
utilized community resources will be a serious detriment to the city
and the citizens.

I welcome any responses or questions, and I look forward to seeing you
all, and speaking on these topics at the City Council Meeting on the
21st of this month. Thank you for your time and consideration of my
points.

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