by Jonathan Reale, BKD LLP
The 2017 LEAD YP August program featured several breakout sessions with guest speakers specializing in parks and recreation, education, and transportation. In each of these segments, LEAD YP participants had the opportunity to engage in conversation on pressing matters pertaining to each focus area.
The education breakout session was led by Kim Caston (Richardson ISD, Board of Trustees) and Liz Morse (Richardson ISD, Director of Government Affairs). LEAD YP participants were briefed on the current state of affairs within the education sector, which include the challenges the industry is facing and how those challenges impact education on a local and national level. Caston explained one of the challenges she faces locally is getting the voters in the state legislature to emphasize equity and not equality, meaning not all school districts (and their demographics) should be “painted the same color.” She illustrated intriguing statistics surrounding the education sector within the state of Texas, which included the following:
Morse noted that despite the continually rising property tax levels in the Dallas Region, school districts are receiving less funding as a result of the current state legislation and tier funding structure. As a result, schools have to dip into their general funds (i.e., savings) to pay their teachers appropriately and run the day-to-day operations. Morse advised LEAD YP contact their local or state representatives and speak out on education funding.
Parks & Recreation
Jesse Moreno (Parks & Recreation Board, City of Dallas, Council District 2) keynoted the parks and recreation breakout session. In this session, the LEAD YP class learned about a few of the city’s new initiatives, current challenges of the department, and the process of issuing a municipal bond. Moreno started the discussion by detailing some of the department’s current initiatives and upcoming plans, which include increasing the safety at all city parks through the “Dallas Park Rangers” program as well as the opening of three new parks in downtown Dallas. He further elaborated the importance of the parks and recreation department along with the economic benefits it provides, including a 1:7 rate of return on investment (for every $1 invested, the city sees a $7 return on that investment) on city parks. Moreno also described the current challenge of getting sufficient state funding to ensure the department can complete maintenance and provide safety at each of the city parks.
LEAD YP heard a transportation update from Jaynie Schulz (Urban Design Advisory Committee, City of Dallas, Commissioner/Committee Chair), obtaining a brief overview on the process of zoning and the ways it can be modified, in addition to some of the department’s current initiatives. Schulz explained that the key to successful zoning is trust and strong relationships between the city and its community. Participants asked questions regarding current zoning changes within different communities in downtown Dallas and how those changes are approved and regulated.
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