Support the Arts - vote AGAINST the proposition
Two Frisco-OnLine.com members share their opposing thoughts regarding the Arts of Collin County Project. This article contains one perspective.
Frisco citizens will vote on May 14th to decide whether to revoke our city council’s authority to sell the remaining 16.33 million in bonds approved for The Arts of Collin County (ACC) Performance Hall and Arts Park. I urge you to vote AGAINST this proposition on the ballot. Voting AGAINST the proposition means that you WANT TO KEEP our partnership with Allen, Plano (and now Melissa and Fairview) in the ACC project.
Frisco is a “sports centric” town
No argument there. Look around town at the sheer number of Frisco sports venues – most resulting from successful public-private partnerships. Last month, Frisco was named as the Best Place to Raise an Athlete by Men’s Journal; evidenced further by our various state champion high school teams. This is great - research shows that participation in sports contributes to a child’s character, well-being, self-esteem, coping skills, self-discipline, leadership skills and a healthy body.
But what about our fine arts students?
FISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in the country. It is estimated that there are over 50,000 fine arts students in FISD and in the immediate surrounding ISD’s. But yet, our local venues are sorely lacking when it comes to performance halls for concerts, plays, music recitals, space for art displays (both indoors and outdoors) etc. We regularly bus our fine arts students to Richardson, Dallas and Ft. Worth to experience art museums, plays and concerts as part of their development. Studies show that exposure to drama and music improves cognitive and critical thinking skills. In multiple years, College Board SAT results show that students who take arts classes (including music and drama) had nearly a 100 point better combined math/verbal SAT score than those who had not.
Something for everyone
The regional Performance Hall and Arts Park includes a 2,100 seat performing arts hall (opera, theatre, concerts, etc.), a sculpture garden, walking trails and a meadow for outdoor events that will hold 800 to 3,000 people. With a performance hall of this size and acoustic characteristics, we can attract Broadway quality musicals; something we can’t do with Frisco Discovery Center’s black box theatre or the Frisco Dr. Pepper Star Center – or the Eisemann Center for that matter. In addition to plays and concerts (including symphonies and music of all types), the ACC will offer dance, ballet, lecture series, outdoor activities and shady picnic areas.
When you ask someone why they moved to Frisco, it is extremely rare to hear them say they chose Frisco because of its low tax rate. In fact, the usual response is that they came here for the quality of life. The ACC provides arts, nature, culture and community. This is the best leap forward in addressing the current cultural deficiency in Frisco. Although we could build smaller venues in Frisco, Allen, Plano, Melissa and Fairview at a much higher collective cost, we would not be able to attract the types of performances that the ACC will offer. (McKinney voters decided not to participate in the ACC and have converted their old courthouse into the McKinney Performing Arts Center to mixed reviews – plus it only seats about 425 people.)
Expect a name change in the near future – for this regional Performance Hall and Arts Park is not just for Collin County residents. Denton County residents in Frisco will receive the same benefits. (It’s for all residents of Frisco - and the county that you live in has nothing to do with the benefits that you will receive.)
Similar to our “magnet” IKEA, the ACC will attract visitors from throughout North Texas and will be financially supported by individuals, corporations and cities inside and outside of Collin County. Also, expect discussions of a possible corporate sponsor for the naming rights which could bring in a very large recurring yearly donation as well.
Other fine arts venues
We don’t want to drive (or bus our kids) 20 miles to the Eisemann Center, 27 miles to the AT&T Center and Meyerson Symphony Center, 34 miles to the Music Hall at Fair Park, or 48 miles to the Bass Performance Hall. As the price of oil continues to rise, there is a nationwide trend in bringing the arts to the suburbs. (Washington Post – 1/7/11) It’s the “green thing” to do - and it’s much safer for our families when we cut down their time in transit.
This proximity is one of the reasons that the public-private partnerships in Frisco sports venues have achieved so much success – and the ACC will too. Frisco residents remark that they love getting home from a RoughRiders, Legends, Tornado or FC Dallas game in minutes. I recently attended a Rangers game in Arlington and it took well over an hour to get home.
THINK “macro” - attract corporations, promote job growth and increase our tax base
Let’s take a macroeconomics view when it comes to taxes. By breaking ground on the ACC, we can further “jump start” the economy by putting approximately 350 people to work for 30 months and also by creating plenty of other indirect jobs and immediate revenue for our community. Also, similar to IKEA and our sports venues, the finished ACC will bring in countless dollars of continued indirect spending to Frisco.
I think it’s great that our past city leaders created a TIF and put so much effort over the years in bringing Stonebriar Mall to the northside of 121 - instead of across the highway in Plano. These sales tax revenues have helped Frisco build many successful public-private partnerships throughout our city. Frisco sales tax revenues continue to “rock on” – we are significantly above estimates for sales tax revenue growth this year and continue to be ranked 15th in the Texas Top 20 City Sales and Use Tax Comparison reports.
Another way to increase our property tax values is through local job growth. Let’s support the ACC and help the EDC bring in more corporation relocations and jobs to Frisco, bringing us additional sources of corporate tax revenue which greatly reduces our residential tax burden. Fortune 500 and other large corporations use multi-category numeric scorecards when they are evaluating cities for potential relocations. The lack of having nearby cultural venues such as the ACC significantly reduces a finalist city’s overall score which can cause Frisco to lose future corporate relocations. (Culture was one of several factors that caused Frisco to lose out to Chicago in Boeing’s relocation from Seattle back in 2002.)
We can afford it
First, the annual cost of approximately $16.4 million in bonds is about $1 million at 4% interest rate with a 25 year loan. (There are bonds available at this price but the bond market can certainly change. City financial advisors are conservatively budgeting for a worst case upper range of 4.3 to 4.65% for 20 to 25 year bond sales in June – so an annual $1.28 million cost on the very high end if the bonds are all sold at once.) Part of this will be paid by commercial real estate taxes. And among residential properties, it’s projected to be around $20 per household per year for the 40,000 current households in Frisco.
Secondly, the ACC is not being developed as a revenue source. Even though attendance numbers are unknown, as well as how many more member cities will join (including the possibility still of adding McKinney), or the number of private and corporate donations still to arrive - the highest estimate of the annual operating costs puts Frisco’s share around $500,000 in the opening year (and that is well over the $370,500 the ACC has shown in their recent presentations.) The worst case scenario would be only $11 per household to pay operating costs - and it could be significantly less. Over 20 years, it is projected that Frisco will double its residents, so we can further spread these costs out along the way.
Frisco is the fastest growing city in the U.S. and has one of the highest median incomes in the country. This region is a leader in job growth as well. The investment by Frisco in the ACC represents a small fraction of the overall city budget. Frisco continues to make very smart decisions in infrastructure planning and maintaining our quality of life (which is rewarded back to us in our sustainable property values) so only a small fraction of future property value increases will pay for the ACC. The ACC project is consistent with the other smart ideas Frisco’s leaders have had in order to make Frisco the successful community that it is.
Having built the library, senior center, heritage center, hike and bike trails and the Frisco Athletic Center from the 2002 bond election (the ACC is still the only venue not built), we still enjoy one of the lowest tax rates of all cities in North Texas. And think about all the other wonderful city buildings and sports complexes (other than the projects just named) from other bond elections and funding sources like Certificates of Obligation. I am grateful to our past and current city leaders for building great facilities that meet our long-term needs - and for being smart enough to do it without dramatically raising our tax rates in the short-term.
Let’s finish what we started
This is not a “half cup empty” or “half cup full” scenario – our cup is currently ¾ full. With the approval by the voters and the subsequent selling of the bonds by Council, “our cup will be full” and we can break ground almost immediately. We could have sold the bonds years ago like we did for the aforementioned 2002 projects, but we had to wait for the private funding sources. Now, since the bond sales have been delayed, Frisco can take advantage of lower interest rates and save significant money. With the cost of steel and labor down, construction costs are now 23% lower than 2008 estimates - also contributing to a better time to build.
We have a beautiful piece of donated land consisting of rolling hills, creeks and trees. These 124 acres are in a prime accessible location strategically located near the borders of its member cities. (If we had built this project within the Frisco city limits, we could have lost $3 to $3.5 million off our tax rolls instead – so the fact that it is located just over the border in Allen is a very good thing.)
Frisco has had great success with public-private partnerships. The ACC project is still corralling in private donations – including a recent donation of $100,000 that sits in limbo until the voters succeed in voting against this proposition.
Fiscal conservatism would not be pulling out now, with us having invested and still being on the hook for approximately $4,896,525 and thousands upon thousands of hours of volunteer time with nothing to show for it! This is akin to tearing down the city hall, library or police station because we have since changed our minds.
THINK for yourself
Let’s not allow national political parties or special interests to kill this great venue. The ACC continues to be a political pawn within our city. I’m all for keeping taxes low, but that doesn’t mean chopping off a much needed project like the ACC at its knees.
I’m grateful that previous Frisco leaders and citizens had the vision to invest wisely to generate growth and increase the quality of life, making Frisco what it is today. McKinney voted not to participate in the ACC by only 77 votes. I saw two significant factions behind the final vote – soccer parents who were frustrated with their city’s lack of funding for a proposed soccer park (“so why spend money on the arts instead”) and the downtown merchants who wanted an arts facility on the courthouse square instead to generate revenues for their individual businesses.
Please support the ACC even if you don’t think your family members will use it. Be “inclusive”. Just like many of us who have voted for (or support) city facilities like the Frisco Athletic Center, Library, Heritage Museum, Senior Center, the Frisco Soccer Complex or the proposed dog park or skate park – that we personally don’t use, or will rarely use. Let’s be considerate of the needs of our entire community. Invest in your fellow citizens’ lives and futures – I’m grateful to those many empty nesters here in Frisco who pay school district taxes just like those of us with children.
Forget the surveys. Don’t get lulled into not showing up at the election polls because you think this proposition will pass or fail anyway without your vote. Also, don’t just choose our new city leaders or form an opinion on the ACC because that’s what your neighbor or friend suggested – without learning the facts. Form an educated opinion; learn the “real” facts and think on your own. I found dozens of available sources and accessible city leaders/volunteers to crystallize my thinking while writing this article.
Please don’t erase my 2002 vote
We voted for a “multi-city” deal - that was the wording on the 2002 bond election ballot. We had an unusually high voter turn-out in 2002 of our then 47, 904 citizens and this bond issue was passed. We hoped that all four proposed owner cities would participate in the ACC - and that may still happen.
Again the cup is ¾ full. This is an amazing accomplishment to get this level of regional cooperation on any kind of initiative. Frisco gave our word to Allen and Plano nine years ago. So let’s not be a turncoat; let’s uphold our end of the deal. I’m all for the economies of scale that result from regional cooperation of this kind - and the ability to provide infrastructure with the costs spread over a much wider tax base.
Two things – if this “revote” fails. First, we can kiss away any future joint projects with these cities for years to come (“our word means nothing”) and second, you have diluted the value and the integrity of my vote. If we can revisit a vote from nine years ago just because we have new citizens in town, what’s stopping Frisco from doing this again when we add another 50,000 citizens? This is a very dangerous precedent being set with this “revote”. Let’s do the right thing and put this issue behind us as quickly as possible.
Vote AGAINST the proposition because you WANT TO KEEP our partnership in the ACC project. And once the people have spoken AGAIN, I implore Council to heed the will of the people and sell the bonds to get this project started while we still have favorable construction costs. (We would not have to sell all the bonds at one time; that would be up to the City Manager and Council.) This magic window of opportunity is slipping away quickly.
Editor's Note: Read the opposing point-of-view here: http://www.frisco-online.com/index.php/news/city-news/politics/2073.html
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