The C3 Podcast – EPISODE 4 – Angelia Pelham – Unity, Diversity, & Political Climate

Wendi McGowan-Ellis:

Welcome to The Pelham Podcast. I’m your host, Wendi McGowan-Ellis featuring Angelia Pelham, candidate for Frisco City Council Place 3, and this is your home to hear from a strong, strategic and successful leader. Angelia, welcome.

Angelia Pelham:

I’m excited to be here today, Wendi. Thank you for hosting this podcast. Looking forward to it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis:

Excellent. Well today on the program, we are going to be discussing Angelia’s priorities, her policy and everyone’s favorite topic, taxes. So Angelia, how does your vision for the city compare with current priorities?

Angelia Pelham:

Yeah. So I think that’s a really good question, Wendi. And so what I’ll start by talking about is just highlighting what my three priorities are, and then we’ll talk about some of the outcome of the most recent winter session where the City Council really laid out their 2021 priorities. And then we can see where that overlap tends to take place. And so let’s start out with my priorities. The first one is really focusing on a shared vision for the city. And I think that probably the word that is most recognizable as it pertains to vision here in Frisco is creating a sense of placemaking, knowing exactly who we want the city to be when it grows up, so to speak. What do we want it to look like? What do we want it to feel like? And then when you have that crystal clear vision, then every decision that we make tends to overlay on top of that vision.

And so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at our 2015 comprehensive plan. That really does go into great depth on what the city should look like and how much green space we should have and how much mixed use land we should have, how much urban living land, what our traffic patterns should look like. So we’ve done the heavy lifting as a city with laying out what that city vision should be. I think that just continuing to cast that vision and continuing to show the residents of Frisco that A, we have a vision and that every decision that we make overlays on top of that vision. You can never lose sight of a vision as an organization or a city. Vision has to be first and paramount with everything you do. And so continuing to be a part of casting and really codifying that shared vision is a priority for me.

The second is all about balanced growth. We all know that Frisco is growing. There’s no doubt that we are continuing to be a growth hub for corporations moving into the city, residents moving into the city. If you think about it, there are probably 36 projects in the pipeline that our city EDC is working on right now. We are bringing in an average of about a thousand new residents a month. We’re well over 203,000 residents. So we’re growing. We’re growing our tax base corporately, we’re growing our residential profile consistently. So we’re a growth organization, we’re a growth city. So for us, it’s about having that balanced and healthy growth. We want to not only be the best place to visit, but we also want to be the best place to live, and how do you continue to balance that?

How do you continue to manage the corporate growth that’s bringing in new corporations and new employees into our city? And then balancing that with things like ensuring that we have enough investment in public safety, whether it’s fire and police, ensuring that we are managing our density and our traffic. Those are the kinds of things that when I think about balanced growth, I’m thinking about, “Yes, let’s bring on all of the great new incentives that make people want to come here and visit. But let’s also make sure that we keep our eye on the ball of what also makes it a great place to live.” And that’s a delicate balance that we’ve got to constantly focus on as a city. And then the third one is all about celebrating and championing the diversity that exists within our city.

40% of our resident profile is made up of people of color, and considering the diversity mix that we have, I think that that’s a competitive advantage for us as a city. So when we tout Frisco as being a great place for a corporation to relocate its headquarters, I think the beauty of our diverse city is a part of that selling story. And so continuing to celebrate that, continuing to ensure that every resident feels as though he or she belongs and he or she is celebrated with their own individual uniquenesses. And so things like we celebrated Diwali, we celebrated Kwanzaa. Those are things that may sound small to some folks, but they’re significant because what we’re doing is we’re inviting people in and helping them feel as though they belong and they’re a part of this fabric of this great city called Frisco.

So those are my three big priorities. And so now I wanted to just shift a little and talk a little bit about some of the priorities that I’ve heard from the council over the past couple of days. I think a large part of these priorities from the council really overlay on top of this balanced growth that I’m talking about. And so when you think about Grand Park and building up on that property and cleaning it up, really reconstructing its use to this incredible, I think, over 600 acre park. That’s all a part of growth and it’s also a part of quality of life. And so I think that certainly goes into that balanced growth bucket. But then another big one for me, and it’s a city priority, it’s reinvesting in aging property. To me, that’s a part of that looking back as while you’re looking forward.

You’ve got to make sure that you’re maintaining quality of life while you’re also focused on growing the city. And so things like medians are important that we shouldn’t take for granted ensuring that. Again, we are reinvesting in our roads, all of those public infrastructure locations that tend to age over time. So, ensuring that we’re investing in those. And so again, that goes back to my priority of balanced growth. So there are a number of city priorities that really align very closely either with my balance growth vision or even with that shared vision. So I would say to you that what I envision focusing on is very much aligned with many of the priorities that the city has laid out for its 2021 vision.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis:

Shifting gears a little bit, let’s talk taxes. So two part question. One, how are Frisco residences’ tax dollars allocated today? And then how, or would you, change how those dollars are used in the general fund budget today?

Angelia Pelham:

Yeah. So I will tell you when I announced my campaign to run for Frisco City Council, taxes became the number one topic that everybody wanted to talk with me about. And so it’s a really big hot button. And I didn’t realize exactly how much until I announced my candidacy for City Council. And I get it, we all want to minimize the amount of tax dollars that we pay. But yeah, we also want to experience these great public facilities that exist in the city. And so it’s a balance. It’s like everything and I’ve experienced this in my corporate career. You’ve got to be able to balance. And while no one wants to increase taxes, I certainly don’t. And so I will say that again for the record, I certainly do not want to increase taxes. And so I think it’s important though for our residents to understand where our tax dollars are going. And so just a brief education on taxes for a second for those who may not be aware of how that equation plays out.

There are two major factors when it comes to our taxes. There’s first the tax rate and that’s what’s imposed by the city of Frisco. And for us, it’s 0.4466 per $100 that’s assessed value. And then the second factor is really around the total assessed property value, and that’s determined by the Central Appraisal District. And so you’ve got those two factors working in tandem. What Frisco controls, what the city controls, is the imposed tax rate. And I will tell you that we have kept our tax rate flat for the past two years, and then even further, it has gone down over the past several years. So we’re working really hard as a city to ensure that we maximize that tax dollar without increasing our tax rate. And I’m excited about that. We also have some things that are at play that Frisco residents receive as a relief or a burden relief when it comes to taxes. There’s the 10% homestead exemption and then there’s also the senior homestead exemption of 80,000.

And so there are some levers, if you will, that help to relieve the tax burden for our citizens. One of the things I will tell you, if you think about the tax dollars and that percentage of our tax dollars that goes into the city’s general fund budget, and you look at the general fund budget breakout, about 48% of our general fund dollars go towards public safety. And that’s specifically for police and fire. So to answer your question, I am thrilled that that is where the bulk of our general fund dollars are going. I think especially as we grow, we continue to bring more people into our city that are visiting, which means you’ve got more traffic on the road, you’ve got more people in our city. I think that there’s probably no better investment of our general fund dollars than to invest in ensuring that our police and fire have the right head count, they have the right training and they have the right technology.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis:

So the city’s current budgeting process, let’s go there now. Are there any changes that you would propose? And if so, how would you work to make those changes that you recommend?

Angelia Pelham:

Yeah I would say that I am very pleased with how the city has handled the budgeting process. I will tell you that as I think about budgeting in a corporate setting, and I have managed multi-million dollar budgets and I’ve been a part of multi-billion dollar organizations, and so I’ve seen how budgeting works in an organization. And it’s not an easy task at all and I think our city staff has done a really good job of budgeting and ensuring that we not only have what we need for operational expenditures, but also ensuring that we have that 25% on reserve in our general fund budget at any given time for unexpected issues that might crop up. So I will tell you that I’m really, really pleased with that. The other thing I’m pleased when it comes to our budgeting process is there are a number of very simple tools that are out there that the city staff has put forward for the average resident to understand how we budget, where our money comes from and where our money goes to.

And I would encourage folks to look at some of those tools that are out there online, but they’re filled with nice colorful graphs and charts so that the city residents can become educated on where that money is coming from and where that money is going to. And I think it’s important for people to realize, as we talk about taxes for example, 52% of the city’s general fund budget comes from ad valorem taxes or property taxes. So suffice it to say, taxes are very important to the city’s general fund and overall revenue of our city. So again, I think it’s very, very important to realize that budgeting is a very comprehensive process, but I’m pleased with the budgeting process as I see it as a citizen in Frisco.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis:

Any other thoughts on policies or taxes as we wrap up today? Any closing thoughts?

Angelia Pelham:

Yeah, I think that again, no one wants to see our taxes increase and I am a part of that as well. I think that the more we continue to diversify our tax base, because right now, the vast majority of our ad valorem taxes are coming really at the expense of the residents. And then I think that it’s probably like a 70, 30% mix. You’ve got 70% of the property taxes coming from the residents and about 30% coming from commercial and corporations. And so I think the more we can continue to diversify our tax base, the better it will be in terms of the burden on Frisco residents. So again, bringing those new corporations to Frisco I think has tremendous value when it comes to looking at our bigger picture of where our revenue sources are.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis:

Well, thank you, Angelia, for your thoughts today. For those of you listening, please share this podcast and visit AngeliaForFrisco.com for all up to date information on Angelia, her platforms and positions to help shape the future of Frisco. Angelia, thanks again.

Angelia Pelham:

Thank you, Wendi, for having me and I look forward to talking with you further about Frisco in our next podcast.

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