Lifestyle, real estate values, tax base and tax rate all go together hand in hand. Think not? Check out the tax rate of Highland Park. I think their tax rate is around $2.50/K. I think ours is $7.14/K . Of course, all their houses exceed $1 million in value. Our average is about $167,000 per house. Clearly, you've got to have a good job to live in the Highland Park lifestyle.
A 2'x4' stud, a sheet of plywood, or a sheet of sheetrock cost about the same whether they go into a house in Rowlett, Frisco, or Highland Park. However, the houses they go into have considerably different sales prices. A number of variables contribute to the difference in price. Size, quality of finish out items, and quality of workmanship all contribute to the price. Another variable of value is the cost of the lot. Sewer pipe, water pipe, and manholes all cost the same in each town, but purchasing a lot in Highland Park cost much more than in Rowlett. Why? The price of raw land. In Rowlett, a developed lot may cost $50K. In Highland Park, you would be lucky if you found a lot for $1 million........and then you would have to tear a house down. Why is land more expensive in Highland Park? Lifestyle and desirability.
The price of land is generally determined by the amount available and the desire to own that land. Good land in Rowlett is becoming a little scarce, however enough is left that, if carefully handled, can help to create a superior lifestyle. A superior lifestyle creates demand. Demand creates higher prices, thus more tax base, which should then lower tax rate. This "stuff" all works together. It's not magic. It's just logical.
What's a good lifestyle for Rowlett? Well, if you talk to 20 people in Rowlett, you will probably get 20 answers. Rowlett has a lot of experts. So, let's ask the question a little differently. What do you think people who don't live in Rowlett would like to see in Rowlett if they were thinking about moving here? Rowlett's lifestyle, as perceived by others, is a very important ingredient in the calculation of real estate values. If they like what they see, they will pay more for their lot/house. If they pay more for their house, and both your house and their house are equal, your house goes up in value. This is the comparable approach to appraisal. All appraisers use it.
Stated simply, the more they pay for their house, the more valuable your house becomes, and the tax base improves accordingly. In this example, if all city costs remain the same, your taxes did not go up. In fact, your tax bill would be reduced slightly because of the new house adding more value to the tax base. If several new houses are sold, so much the better. All we have to do is make a lot of people want to live in Rowlett, and not increase the city's costs of operation. The last half of the above sentence isn't going to happen. Costs are going to go up. Therefore, so are our taxes if we don't improve our tax base situation. The secret is to get our tax base to increase faster than our need for money. Would our tax base increase quicker if commercial real estate was being added to our tax base? Well, maybe, if we could get commercial development faster than 10 years from now and didn't have to give up another 10 years of rebates just to get them here. Will anybody step forward and prove otherwise?
So.........how do we make Rowlett more desirable and increase the value of our tax base? We have a couple of notable problems. First, we don't have any money. Second, we have irritated about half of the developers in the DFW metroplex. They don't particularly like Rowlett. Ask them or any of their engineers about Rowlett. My simple wants are for Rowlett to improve the parks, provide some bike paths, and walking paths, shelters for walkers to get out of 100 degree sun, and devel0p some lake property into destinations for canoe advocates, kayakers, paddleboats, and small one or two man sailboats. I would like a new city building built on a 27 acre park on the water and visible from Lakeview Parkway. It needs to be a focal point from the Lakeview Parkway bridge. The city's property downtown (11 sites) can be sold to go toward paying off much of the new building. I think the rest of the cost can be paid off in 10 years, or so, and the land sold by the city could be incorporated into the re-development of downtown. Enormous effort could be made to re-develop downtown as a "replica" of turn of the century Americana. I would like to buy all of Robinson Park. What a wonderful front door that would make!!.......all it takes is money.
All the above would make me feel warm and cozy. You may have a different idea on what would make Rowlett desirable to people thinking about moving here. Like I say, Rowlett is overrun with experts. However, how do we do this when we don't have any money?
Well, Robinson Park would be relatively easy. It could be financed by revenue bonds and paid off with sales of the land to developers. The rest gets a little complicated, and slow to develop. We have a little bit of a chicken and egg situation. If we had a fat tax base, we could develop the parks and lakeshore, then our tax base would presumably improve even more, thus creating more tax revenue. On the other hand, we have no tax base in which to fund the parks and lakeshore. We have to get off dead center. How do we do that?
Let's start with volunteers, first. There is one in Rowlett that does a lot of work and gets little credit. It is called KRB (Keep Rowlett Beautiful). These people do a great job with little recognition. Their efforts contribute to making Rowlett a good place. It's all volunteer. They do not collect tax money. They were very active in a project in which I became involved. It was the Environmental Learning Center. The location on Chiesa Road had been selected. At one time, it was substantially funded by the Lion's Club ($50,000). It died, probably due to politics. Then, it was resurrected. City management at the time did not like that site, and the ELC was subsequently moved to a site on the east side of town on waterfront land which was to be Scenic Park. Last I heard, Scenic Park was allocated $750K to start the first of five phases to develop the park. That was a year ago. Where did Scenic Park go? I have no idea. I would imagine bogged down somewhere between red tape and the maple syrup. I offer this site to anyone with Keep Rowlett Beautiful to send up information about their work. I will post anything they send to get their work out to the public.
There was a fellow that started a kayak facility on the lake and Miller Road. It was working pretty well. Many times I crossed the bridge on Miller Road and there would be 50 kayaks on the water. The manager sent me a couple of articles that were circulated nationwide in which Rowlett was mentioned. Rowlett was getting some good press. Kayaking is the fasting growing participation sport in the country. Facilities are bursting out all over the DFW area, per Dave Noll, the manager. However, this project has turned into a cat fight between Dave Noll and Rowlett's "officialdom." I'm not taking sides here. I am not part of the negotiations. However, I hear both sides. This damage needs to be repaired. Either side is welcome to post their position on this site.
I once had a chance to get control of a swamp in the City of Rowlett. I didn't want a swamp, but I knew someone who might. It was a major university's biology department. I was not a part of city government at the time, but I went to Rowlett's Zoning department and met with Erin Jones and her assistant at the time. I had visions of getting a major university to set up a research lab on the swamp. I would have suggested a small well done lab at the site with the University's name and logo prominently displayed. It wouldn't have become any direct revenue source for the town, but it certainly would have given academic credibility to Rowlett. It was no cost to the city, but it was soundly rejected by the Zoning Department. It was later learned that someone had said something about trying to get a university campus in Rowlett. Some more "what ifs." What happened to the campus? More blah, blah, blah, blah.
Now, it's admitted that the Scenic Park endeavor would have cost some money, but it was phased over five steps and some of the pain could have been absorbed by increasing tax base........but wait a minute...... Our tax base isn't increasing. I think any cost attributed to the kayak park could be held to a minimum. It has to. We can't afford any more.......no increasing tax base. The research center would have probably been at no cost.
Would all the above help Rowlett's lifestyle? I think so. However, two subdivisions that would have soon be contributing $770K/month to the tax base is gone. Two prominent developers were thrown on the trash heap. We are waiting on commercial development. The research center is now gone. The kayak park is bogged down in argument, and I have no idea what happened to Scenic Park. This is not stunning progress. Oh well, commercial development will solve all the problems. Correct?
Do you think all the above would have had a positive effect on your house value and helped keep your tax bill in check? Yes, it would have. I don't think I feel good, now. I'll see ya later.