Through higher sales tax revenue and increased residential development, the city has more money to work with for the 2015-16 fiscal year without increasing the tax rate of 48.86 cents per $100 of property value, City Manager Bruce Glasscock said.
Although development equals revenue growth for Plano, city officials say more growth also equals an increased need for added infrastructure, capital improvements, neighborhood investments and public safety.
The city’s budget process has been ongoing since July. Plano’s police and fire-rescue departments have presented to the City Council ways in which each is affected by growth and the increasing need for emergency services.
“This budget represents a significant reinvestment in our community and a reinvestment in the services that we provide,” Mayor Harry LaRosiliere said at an Aug. 15 budget work session. “We’re putting our city in the position for the next five to 15 years.”
The new budget is not expected to be adopted until Sept. 14, but preliminary documents show that an additional $2.9 million may be allocated toward Plano’s public safety programs for the next fiscal year.
Plano Fire-Rescue’s $51.5 million budget represents a 3.5 percent increase from last year and will fund technology upgrades for devices, such as laptops, tablets and thermal imaging cameras.
In a July 27 presentation to council members, interim Chief Marty Wade cited ways in which development and population growth are affecting first responders. The department has seen a 9 percent increase in emergency calls over the past year, he said.
“Each year, we continue to see an increase in our overall call volume. We have to really watch that and manage it,” Wade said.
Compared to the average 3 to
4 percent increase in years past, Wade said the majority of calls received are for emergency medical services. Plano’s growing senior population may also affect how the department plans for the years ahead.
“This demographic accounts for roughly 10 percent of our population; however, it accounts for almost 40 percent of our EMS calls,” Wade said. “We have to know where they’re moving [to]and where they are living.”
Changes in the high-density residential landscape are also affecting Plano Fire-Rescue’s response times, Wade said.
“You put that many people in one small area and it affects service and how we get there,” he said. “Most of these [multifamily structures]are being built on commercial land that has been rezoned. Every time commercial [land]gets swapped over to residential [land], additional services need to be provided [to that area].”
Wade said the corner of Spring Creek Parkway and Ohio Drive is a historically commercial area that has since developed a higher need for emergency services. Currently there are five multifamily complexes within a quarter of a mile of the intersection. Fire and EMS calls average a 5:47-minute response time in this area, which is nearly one minute longer than the department’s 2014 overall average, Fire Chief Sam Greif said.
Greif said that average is still a favorable response time given Plano’s land area and population density.
“If that’s the area we say we’re having the hardest time getting to … I would say that’s a stellar response comparatively speaking,” he said.
As to whether the city would consider relocating a fire station or adding new ones closer to these newly populated areas, Glasscock said the competition for land in Plano could make it more difficult to do than in the past. However adding new stations in the future is not completely out of the question, Greif said.
“[The addition of new fire stations] is being considered and it’s inevitable. Ultimately it’s up to our elected officials to make that decision,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any [other]way we can expect to maintain the current level of service we are providing with the projected growth we see coming here.”
The Plano Police Department’s $64.5 million budget represents a
5 percent increase from last year and provides funding for 14 additional police officers, various equipment upgrades and additional body cameras.
As pockets of Plano take shape, the department is increasing its efforts in and around mixed-use developments. Legacy West and the Shops at Legacy are examples of how the city is accommodating its growing population, police spokesperson David Tilley said.
“One of the things we’re looking into is the way we police these areas,” he said. “It’s a lot different than being able to drive around in a neighborhood.”
The department implemented its new way of policing in downtown Plano and at the Shops at Legacy. Neighborhood patrol officers spend most shifts on foot, which allow them to respond quicker and familiarize themselves with the layout of nearby condos, he said.
“We don’t really know yet how many of these [urban town centers]are going to be developed but we know there are going to be several,” Tilley said. “We’re exploring with other agencies that have similar type set ups to see how they’re doing it.”
The police department will also consider increasing the number of officers equipped with body cameras. The motorcycle patrol unit started using them in early 2010, Tilley said.
At a July 27 City Council meeting, Police Chief Gregory Rushin said the department hopes to add a full-time open records assistant position to help accommodate video records requests.