Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker delivered the State of the City Address on February 1, 2017.
We feel that living or working in Richardson, Texas is one of the best choices you can make in the DFW Metroplex, but don't just take our word for it. In 2016, Richardson found itself on numerous “best of” lists ranking everything from safety to career opportunities.
Strong Financial Position
Last year, for the seventh year in a row, both the Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s credit rating agencies reaffirmed Richardson’s “Triple A” status, the highest possible rating available for credit worthiness. The City’s financial strength is led by its long-tenured management team, which is tasked with continuously finding ways to enhance effectiveness and efficiency and to annually report on cost containment strategies.
Strength in property values this past year provided for a 1-cent tax rate decrease, and an additional $10,000 exemption was also approved for senior taxpayers, bringing the total property tax exemption for seniors to $70,000. Contributions to the City’s Economic Development Fund were increased this fiscal year to promote continued economic diversification and development of quality employment centers.
The City continues to enjoy its status as the Official International Business Capital of North Texas, as designated by the Texas Legislature. This designation is enhanced by the Mayor’s Office of International Business Development. The office hosted 33 foreign delegations last year, with 210 visitors from 18 different countries, and hosted business development trips to Japan and Taiwan. Today, 62 international corporate campuses call Richardson home.
One of the biggest catalysts for business development is the reduction of barriers-to-entry in the marketplace. Richardson’s goal is to have clear, easy-to-understand processes and policies in order to streamline services. In 2016, a highlight of this effort was the implementation of the Express Permitting Program initiated by the Building Inspection Department. The program guarantees a plan review time of three business days for qualifying projects. It’s a successful program that’s helping small business development. And last October, the City launched the online “new business guide” that provides step-by-step processes in becoming a new business owner in Richardson.
Also launched last year was Richardson Projects. This online resource is now the City’s one-stop shop for people wanting to learn about road and other construction work. It can be a useful tool in keeping up with this year’s budget for infrastructure improvements, which is more than three times what it was four years ago. The infrastructure improvements budget includes money for road repairs as well as funding to renovate public pools.
The City Council also approved funding this fiscal year to fast track improvements to the Public Safety Campus. The project will replace Fire Station 1 and the police station on site with new and updated facilities. The 2015 Bond Program will pay for most of those upgrades and also includes the replacement of Fire Station 3 in Canyon Creek.
Richardson is focused on dedicating resources to make infrastructure improvements, and the current fiscal year dedicates more money to making those investments over any year in the City’s history. Alley and street concrete repairs, screening wall maintenance, new bridge railings, new pavement markings and new street name signs are part of the more than $5 million Richardson will spend this fiscal year on infrastructure enhancements.
The voter approved 2015 Bond Program provides $40.7 million for further work in the years to come. It will also bring more than 10 miles of new sidewalks to five of the City's 27 sidewalk regions, completing the sidewalk replacement program begun in 2006.
Richardson's Parks and Recreation Department has launched the update to its long-term Open Space Master Plan. The document is regularly updated by gathering community feedback on park and recreation needs. In recent years it has outlined the course for, and led to the creation of new rec centers, hike and bike trails and the opening of the Bush Central Barkway dog park. The plan also helped lead to the 2015 purchase of more than 60 acres of land to create the now 100-acre Spring Creek Nature Area. Last spring, the Dallas Business Journal recognized the Spring Creek Nature Area land purchase as its “Neighborhood Impact Deal of the Year” for the entire DFW Metroplex.
Preserving Our Culture
Preserving the city’s culture is a goal of the City Council because cultural identity is important for a community. Richardson is known for its diverse and well-educated population that appreciates innovation and artistic expression. Last October, the City Council launched a new initiative to promote multiculturalism and this April will be recognized as Multiculturalism Month in the city. This summer the city will also host its first forum for discussing multicultural activities.
Richardson is dedicated to promoting the arts and has created partnerships with nearly 30 local arts and performance groups to diversify cultural offerings. Grant funds are given to support live theater, music and dance performances, and several multicultural events. Many of these events take place in the city’s Eisemann Center, which celebrates its 15th year of performances this September. The Eisemann Center recently completed more than $500,000 in audio visual and aesthetic upgrades, and during the last fiscal year held 450 shows and events with an annual attendance of nearly 175,000. This includes the annual Miss Texas Pageant, which now calls the Eisemann Center home.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Richardson’s Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival. Wildflower! features six stages with more than 80 musical acts centrally located at Galatyn Plaza. It is joined by the city’s Cottonwood Arts Festival, which is now in its 48th year. Both signature events are completely produced and managed by the City of Richardson, as are Richardson’s annual Family Fourth, Huffhines Art Trails, Santa’s Village and many other community events.
People and businesses from across the country and around the world have chosen to relocate to Richardson. One of the biggest selling points is the access to great schools. Richardson’s Telecom Corridor® area is made possible by the school districts and college and university campuses that produce a high-tech workforce. A student can go from pre-school to a Ph.D. without ever leaving the boundaries of the city.
The Richardson and Plano independent school districts serve Richardson and their STEM and STEAM programs are propelled by the support they get from local business. Students continue to rank and compete among the best in the nation and even the world. They include the “FEARLESS” robotics team from Berkner High School, which recently won the Texas and World Engineering Division Championship.
Richland College celebrated the opening of its Technology, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing, or TEAM, Center this past year. The new center advances the college’s mission of teaching, learning and community building.
The University of Texas at Dallas is known for producing high-caliber graduates who help attract high-tech employers to Richardson. Of the 21 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, 18 recruit from UT Dallas.
Since the early 1960s, the city has played an active role in promoting and securing a healthy future for residents. Those efforts were bolstered in 2009 when the Methodist Health System joined the community, taking over the Richardson Regional Medical Center.
The Methodist Richardson Medical Center Renner Campus opened in 2014. With more than 1,000 health professionals, this facility serves more than 40,000 emergency visits annually and its physicians perform both inpatient and outpatient surgical services along with specialized cancer treatment. Last year, Methodist and Children’s Health also partnered to open a new pediatric unit. Growth at the Renner campus has been so fast that all floors and offices were opened nine years ahead of schedule, and design work is now underway to add another two floors to the hospital.
The Renner facility is complemented by Methodist Campus for Continuing Care on Campbell Road, which also touts a full-service emergency department as well as laboratory and radiological support for emergency services. Last year this facility also became the home of new long-term acute care services offered through a new agreement between Methodist and Vibra Healthcare.
Also last year, Texas Health Resources opened a first-of-its-kind Texas Health Neighborhood Wellness Center at CityLine and features the latest in exercise equipment technology including a virtual environment. The center operates alongside the Texas Health Outpatient Behavioral Health Center and a family practitioner’s office.