MIDLOTHIAN – The Midlothian city council and staff discussed development in its southern sector and the need for road improvements at its second budget workshop Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Councilman T.J. Henley opened the discussion noting that 60 percent of the city’s future residential growth in the southern sector, primarily along the Farm-to-Market Road 663 corridor.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Frizzell and Councilman Ted Miller made a quick estimate of about 1,016 homes to be added through upcoming developments and additions to existing developments.

“That’s roughly about 2,500 people,” Miller said.

Council member Jimmie McClure said the council would be, “crazy not to be proactive about this.”

The council members discussed the road rehabilitation and maintenance fund, which is currently budgeted $100,000 per fiscal year to treat emergency needs.

City Manager Don Hastings explained that the road rehab and repair has been operating as a “triage,” planning road repairs on a short-term basis as they require immediate action.

“What we’ve been doing is basically triage, separating the worst roads to receive immediate attention,” Hastings said. “We’ve done our best to try to grow out of that situation to where we can actually formulate a long-term plan based on road traffic counts.”

He noted that the current proposed budget includes a 30 percent increase in the road rehab and repair fund, and any additional funds could definitely put to good use this budget year.

Henley noted that Midlothian’s tax rate is at the bottom of the range compared to all of the neighboring cities in the county. He suggested that citizens may be willing to pay a little higher tax rate to repair and improve their roadways and have a city of which they can be proud.

McClure brought up the option of raising the tax rate to the rollback rate, which would add about $200,000 in revenue. The increase would add one cent per $100 valuation, a $17.50 increase in taxes per year for an average home value of $175,000.

Hastings suggested that if the council decided not to raise the tax rate, 10 days worth of funds, about $500,000, could be pulled from the reserve fund. He stated that the reserve fund is currently sitting at 190 days of operation funding, and doesn’t necessarily need to be higher than 180 days.

The council discussed these two options and reached a consensus to take action on Tuesday, Aug. 13 to adopt the rollback rate, the highest possible rate without triggering a tax rate election.

Finance Director and Assistant City Manager Chris Dick explained that the council can make a final vote to set a lower tax rate after Tuesday’s vote. However, the council cannot set a higher tax rate after Tuesday without triggering the whole public hearing process over again.

“If you vote for the rollback rate that’s not to say it’s the final tax rate,” Dick said. “You can always make a final vote for a lower rate, but this way it gives you the most option.”

Mayor Bill Houston echoed Dick’s remarks and said he felt this was the best option. Houston asked each council member present to reach a consensus.

The council members and staff also looked at which roads have the greatest need for proactive improvements. Walnut Grove Road, Farm-to-Market Road 663 and the extension of 14th Street to McAlpin were immediately brought up as the three top contenders.

Hastings said that ECOM, the developer behind Diamond J Ranch, if approved will contribute funds to improve Walnut Grove Road. He said it could be possible for the city to wait and use these funds on Walnut Grove and focus other funds on improvements in the southern sector.

During the workshop, the council also discussed expenditures and department budgets for the conference center and senior activity center.

Follow Aaron on Facebook at Facebook.com/AaronSchwadererWDL and on Twitter at Twitter.com/AaronSchwaderer. Contact him at 469-517-1456 or a.schwaderer@waxahachietx.com.