Westlake weighs in on Trophy CLUB MUD consolidation

Posted Monday, Sep. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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After remaining relatively silent on the issue of the possible consolidation of Trophy Club Municipal Utility District 1, Westlake officials recently chimed in with a plan.

A portion of the Trophy Club MUD extends into the neighboring town of Westlake’s Solana business park. In an Aug. 19 letter written by Mayor Laura Wheat to the MUD, Westlake offered to buy the MUD out in Solana for more than $1.8 million in cash and $6.6 million in combined payments, assets and savings.

MUD General Counsel Pam Liston said the district’s board has asked its financial advisers to review Westlake’s proposal and see if the numbers make sense for the district’s commercial taxpayers in Solana.

Liston said the MUD has not indicated whether it favors the plan, but officials said they appreciated Westlake’s proposal, which Liston described as a “bona fide offer.”

“It’s a quality offer, but I’m not saying if it will work,” Liston said.

As Westlake waits on the MUD to respond to an offer that could lead to the dissolution of the Solana portion of the MUD, the town of Trophy Club is continuing to study the consolidation question further .

A long-standing Trophy Club issue

Trophy Club Town Manager Mike Slye and the Trophy Club Council have made it a priority to pursue a possible consolidation of the town government and the MUD.

The Trophy Club Town Council recently appointed an independent panel that will study figures from both the town of Trophy Club and the MUD, and come back to the council with a recommendation about the best course of action regarding consolidation.

“The town will open its books and resources to the panel and the TC MUD 1 manager has indicated the same,” Slye said. “Whatever the outcome, the panel’s recommendation will help guide us to a resolution.”

A consultant in April presented the Council with Trophy Club Vision 2030, which set out a strategic vision of what the town should aspire to look like in the future. Among the recommendations was that the town provide taxpayers with a unified municipal government.

Currently, the town of Trophy Club handles most city services and two of the three public safety departments — police and EMS. Trophy Club MUD, a separate taxing entity that predates the town’s incorporation, handles fire, water and wastewater.

Slye said the dual government setup in Trophy Club is administratively inefficient. For example, the same employees in public safety have to answer to two different entities.

And the town, which is 93 percent grown out, is adding new rooftops mostly in a public improvement district (PID) that falls outside of the original town boundaries — and outside of the MUD’s jurisdiction.

At build-out, Slye estimates that the PID will make up something on the order of one-third of the town’s population of roughly 15,000. The MUD provides water/wastewater and fire services to the PID residents, but has to collect fees through an assessment instead of a tax.

Slye said he and the Council worry that PID residents could end up having to pay a higher amount for services than those homeowners living within the MUD’s boundaries. In other words, he said, the town worries that PID residents might be treated as outsiders by the MUD, instead of equals to the MUD residents.

“As a local government we can do better,” Slye said. “Consolidating to one organization will provide cohesive operations and a unified vision. Trophy Club residents deserve a single taxing authority providing equal representation.”

Liston said the district seeks to treat all residents it serves the same, regardless of where they live.

What’s stopping them?

In many towns where MUDs once existed, a developing city that reaches a mature stage in its growth simply votes to dissolve the utility district.

That can’t happen in Trophy Club because the MUD extends beyond the Trophy Club town limits and the Council cannot simply vote to dissolve it.

The MUD was formerly two districts, and MUD 2 did rest wholly within the Trophy Club town limits. Trophy Club looked at dissolving MUD 2. But the MUDs pursued an injunction against Trophy Club in 2009 to give the two MUD districts time to vote to consolidate into one district. Voters approved the MUDs’ plan, and the town now has one MUD in two municipalities.

This spring, the town of Trophy Club approached the MUD and Westlake with a consolidation plan that would gradually phase out the MUD. The draft proposal, which Trophy Club called a strategic partnership agreement, conceptualized an informal framework for negotiating the dissolution of the MUD.

Trophy Club and the MUD don’t agree on many details of the consolidation issue, but neither party disputes that a substantive dialogue between the two entities did not result from the May partnership proposal.

“I’m not interested in arguing numbers,” Slye said. “I want us to come up with a consolidated financial impact. Let’s get a consolidated position.”

Trophy Club’s goal

Slye said the town’s goal is to provide equal treatment for all residents and a more efficient government and, over time, cheaper and more streamlined services. He also posits that the MUD employees would still be employees under the consolidation plan – only they would work for the town instead of the utility district.

But MUD officials remain skeptical of the town’s vision for consolidation. Liston said the MUD Board is not interested in discussing the issue with Trophy Club town officials unless they present “real numbers” that show how consolidation might impact taxpayers.

Liston said the town hasn’t shown this is in the customers’ best interest; Slye disagrees.

“The bottom line is the Town Council is looking to the future of the community,” Slye said.

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