PHASE 2 FUNDING FOR I-35E
Interstate 35E through Dallas and Denton counties is one of the most congested highways in Texas, causing delays that negatively impact tens of thousands of Texas commuters and have a dampening impact on current and prospective business development. A comprehensive reconstruction of I-35E is planned, but only the smaller first phase has been funded. That work will be completed in early 2017. The larger second phase has not been schedule nor funded at this time. The economic vitality of communities along I-35E, including Lewisville, relies on an interstate with sufficient capacity and safety measures. Full funding for the second phase of I-35E construction should be considered a top priority.
The city strongly opposes any legislation that would restrict or hinder Lewisville’s ability to annex property currently located within its ETJ. While there might be some complaints about rapid annexation in other communities, Lewisville’s situation is unique in that the ETJ properties were annexed more than 20 years ago prior to residential development; this means all current residents in the city’s ETJ knew when they purchased their home that they would one day be annexed in to Lewisville. In addition, the city already provides multiple city services to the ETJ properties by contract, and residents in the ETJ are given resident status for multiple city services such as recreation classes or arts center performances. Upon annexation, residents in the ETJ would immediately receive full city services and see a dramatic decrease in their annual property tax bill. Any measure that would restrict or hinder that annexation would harm those residents.
LOCAL REVENUE CAPS
Lewisville has operated in a fiscally conservative manner for years, and as a result many of the legislative proposals currently being considered would have had minimal impact on the city during the past decade. However, during a community visioning program in 2014 and a bond election in 2015, Lewisville residents expressed a strong desire for new and enhanced services and facilities; those services and facility operations cost money, and new restrictions on the city’s ability to collect the revenue needed to fund those services could result in diminished or delayed services contrary to the will of our residents. Applying an arbitrary statewide solution to a perceived problem that is not typical of the majority of Texas cities would go against the stated desires of Lewisville residents.
City original jurisdiction in setting local water rates is imperative and should not be eroded by acts of the Legislature or state agencies. Local water systems are designed, constructed and maintained by local authorities responding to the needs of their customers. Local operators are best able to identify and understand capital needs that can impact water rates. Since water rates are adopted by elected city councils, customers have a level of engagement that would not exist if rate-making authority were transfer in part or in whole to a state agency with no direct knowledge of any individual Texas community. Lewisville will vigorously oppose any efforts to exert state control over local water rates or to diminish city original jurisdiction over water systems.
Some corporate interests continue to seek exemptions from local control over public rights-of-way. Lewisville will fight at the state and federal levels to preserve municipal authority to manage and maintain public rights-of-way, including the right to seek adequate compensation for their use. The public should not be asked to subsidize for-profit businesses by allowing those business free use of public property (including rights-of-way) to generate their profit. Access charges for using a public right-of-way is in essence a rental payment for property, similar to rent a business might pay for office space or lease payments for major equipment. It is an expected cost of doing business and should be treated as such. Reducing the ability of cities to maintain rights-of-way, or to collect reasonable payments for commercial use of rightsof-way, would transfer an unfair economic burden to taxpayers in violation of long-standing Texas legal standards.
Cities provide the majority of government services the impact millions of Texans every day; yet, unlike other parts of the country, Texas cities receive minimal funding from the state. Cities should not be expected to provide a wide range of important services and also to serve as a fund-raising arm for the state. To the extent possible, local revenue should primarily benefit local taxpayers. Lewisville opposes any measure that would re-direct existing local revenue to the state, or would impose unfunded mandates that create additional work for cities without new funding. This includes opposing any new or expanded fees that would be collected by local municipal courts on behalf of the state.
Many key responsibilities assigned to city government involve reasonable regulation of land use. This includes such items as structured zoning, property appearance codes, and the ability to establish and enforce reasonable business regulations. This also can include the ability of cities to regulate placement of pipelines and drilling sites within their municipal boundaries. These issues have significant impact on public health, safety and welfare. They also are vital tools in protecting and preserving residential neighborhoods where millions of Texas have their most valuable investment – a single-family home. Lewisville will oppose any legislative measure that would impede or eliminate the ability of cities to adopt and enforce reasonable land-use regulations, and will support any measures that will strengthen the ability of cities to enact such measures for the good of their residents.
ONLINE SALES TAXES
Contrary to popular misconception, online sales do have an impact on local infrastructure and as such do create costs for cities. Deliveries increase traffic on public streets, and theft or fraud related to online purchases often require action by local police departments. Assessing sales tax on both physical and online retailers creates a level playing field for the businesses; exempting certain types of businesses from those levies would give them an unfair competitive advantage with long-term negative impacts on commercial properties across Texas. The original reasons for exempting online purchases from sales tax are no longer valid because online retail sales have become a well-established and thriving marketplace that no longer needs a public subsidy. Lewisville will oppose any legislation that would permanently eliminate sales tax for online transactions.
Access to clean water is one of the most important factors in the future growth and success of Texas and Texas cities. Because potable water is a highly valuable and physically limited natural resource, step must be taken to ensure ample access in the future. This should include researching and assessing some level of water re-use, especially for upstream cities in North Texas such as Lewisville, where clean effluent released from wastewater treatment plants could be routed directly to water treatment plants and returned to municipal water distribution systems. This would provide a level of protection against severe drought, and mitigate the steady rise in the cost of raw and treated drinking water. Lewisville will support legislation that protects the current and future water supply for Texas, and especially measures that would address the possibility of direct re-use of water.
State, county, and local governments have an obligation to build and maintain an adequate roadway system. Lewisville supports that concept, especially as it relates to proper construction and maintenance of the state highway network. However, there is a limit to how many roads can be built. In addition, more vehicles on roadways have a negative impact on air quality, especially in urban and suburban areas. Many businesses and workers moving to Texas are coming from areas with robust mass transit systems that reduce roadway traffic and enhance economic growth. For all these reasons, among others, Lewisville supports increased state-level investment in public transit, including regional rail service within and between major metro areas.