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2021 was one for the books. Now that it has come to an end, we thought we would take this opportunity to look back and reflect on what a year it has been. The past 12 months have been productive for the Town of Westlake in both areas of our service delivery – municipal and academic services. Below are just some of the major events and achievements that resulted from the persistent efforts of our Town Council and our dedicated staff teams.
Conducted Governance/Budget Retreat: Discussions were held in the spring on the role of the Council and the duties and responsibilities of its members. Councilmembers also spent time reviewing municipal and academic revenue and expenditure proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. A follow-up retreat was held in the fall to review that information before budget adoption.
Approved Annual Budget and Tax Rate: Council adopted the annual budget of approximately $40 million in all funds. This was accomplished while maintaining a low property tax rate of $0.16788 per $100 assessed valuation and still providing you with the high level of service you have come to expect from the Town of Westlake.
Looked to the Future: A visioning retreat for Westlake Academy was held in the fall. Town Council and staff shared information and ideas to help shape the future of our school and evaluate the potential impacts of those decisions. This included the growth of the school, a facility analysis discussion with our school architect, an in-depth review of our enrollment data, the vision/mission of the Academy, and a presentation on an IB education.
Onboarded New Councilmembers: A councilmember orientation was held, for both new and returning members, with the Town’s attorney’s office in the spring to review the Open Meetings and Public Information Acts, governance, conflicts of interest, and other topics relating to these roles.
Took Care of Those in Need: Westlake employees worked around the clock during the February 2021 snowstorms to keep residents safe and informed. Our public works crew responded to busted pipes during and after the freeze and kept the roadways sanded while our communications department kept everyone informed.
Made Progress on Our Pledge for Public Art: Council approved an agreement to begin engineering work for the first public art piece in Town. The sculpture will be located along Solana Blvd. Mayor Wheat and Robin McCaffrey, Town Architect, were instrumental in securing outside donations for the project.
Communicated Effectively: To ensure our communication efforts reach the right audience, we worked with consultants to evaluate our methods for engagement for both municipal and academic services. A final report with recommendations will be presented to Council in January.
Listened to Our Residents: Staff reworked the biennial resident survey that gets mailed to every household in Westlake. Resident participation in the survey is crucial as we tailor our work to best suit the needs and desires expressed in the survey results.
Expanded Response Capabilities: A feasibility study got underway looking at consolidating our Fire/EMS services with the City of Keller. The end goal is to improve services and expand response capabilities. This study is still ongoing with results from the study anticipated to be announced in mid-2022.
Managed Commercial Growth: A site plan was approved for a Lifetime Fitness to be constructed on the current Larry North Fitness site. Once complete, the new building will be approximately 3 times the size of the existing facility. Entrada saw the opening of a Starbucks this past summer among other new businesses on the same retail corner. Work on the pedestrian bridge was completed while many components of the site are still under construction including the chapel, reception hall, parking garage, and the buildings housing restaurant row. Both phases of the Schwab campus are now finished and open as more employees return to work.
Welcomed New Residential Development: The Knolls at Solana welcomed its first residents. Several more homes in the neighborhood will be completed in 2022. Staff worked with developers on the newest neighborhood, Westlake Ranch. This development will consist of 36 lots and include a gated entry, clubhouse, and parks and trails.
Continued Academic Success: Westlake Academy maintained an exceptional level of academic success this year, even with the challenges brought about by COVID-19. Scores for International Baccalaureate Diploma, Advanced Placement, and state assessment testing remained consistent with those earned during our pre-pandemic years.
Cared for Our Youth: The school has continued to look for ways to support the mental, social, and emotional health of the students. Counseling staff integrated conversations about these issues in the classroom setting and introduced the Rhithm App, a wellness check-in tool that helps students manage their current state and build a toolkit of coping strategies they can use.
Hiring the Best: Westlake Academy started the recruitment process for two key positions within the school, the Executive Director and Athletic Director. Given the importance both roles play to the success of the school, extensive candidate recruitment processes were established to attract quality candidates.
Evaluated Our Facilities: A facility analysis was performed at Westlake Academy that looked at the use of current buildings identified future needs. The results were presented to Town Council in September.
Updated Academy Technology: A steering committee was formed to identify the needs and wants for a new Student Information System. With the help of an education consulting group, research was conducted and a report was presented with the findings and recommendations. Staff are now in the process of scheduling demonstrations of some options and will choose a new vendor in 2022.
As you can see from this snapshot, it was a busy year in Westlake with 2022 shaping up to be even better! We are excited to keep the momentum going when it comes to projects and events in the works. Our pride shines through in the work we do to support and implement the Council’s goals and priorities and deliver a range of services to keep our community thriving.