Know your place

April 20, 2014

The chief appraiser of our appraisal district had this quote attributed to her in the Times recently:

“We’ve been able to increase (property) values and put more income in your budgets. Remember that it takes people to do that.”

She was speaking to her board of directors.


The chief appraiser is wrong.  Texas law requires the appraisal district to set a value on each piece of property.  That value is then used to determine the proportionate share of a particular tax burden that the property will bear.

In other words if a particular property is valued at 200 dollars and the total value of all properties is in a particular taxing district is $1,000 then that property will bear 20% of the tax burden for that district.

The taxing entity then sets their tax rate.  They must first determine how many cents per hundred dollars of the most recent valuations from the appraisal district will be required to come up with the same tax revenue as they came up with last year.

As an example, if our $200 dollar property last year was taxed at five cents per hundred the tax bill for the property would be ten cents.  Once again if the value of all the properties was $1,000 the total tax bill would be fifty cents.

If the next appraisal raised the value of the properties to a total of $2,000 then the tax rate would need to be two and one half cents per hundred, yielding the same fifty cents.

Tax increases

After the appraisal district determines the individual and total valuations of the properties the taxing entities then determine what the new tax rate must be in order to raise the same amount of revenue.

In Texas the taxing entity can change their rate to lower (that seldom happens) or raise their tax revenue.  If the new tax rate results in more than an 8 percent increase in revenue a roll back election is in order for some of our governments.

There are some exceptions to the basic formulas above but it should be clear that the appraisal district does not raise revenue for anyone.  They spend revenue.

Know your place

Our chief appraiser is off the reservation.

Referring to the appraisal district’s legal budget, the Times article provided this quote from her:

“When you chip that down to next to nothing, we’ll have to just roll over and give (property owners) whatever they want because we won’t be able to defend our appraisals and provide the best values to the entities.”

It sounds like she considers the property owners to be her opponents.

Maybe she should apply for the job of city manager.


We deserve better


Ball park opening delayed according to the Times

April 19, 2014

According to this picture’s caption in the El Paso Times our ball park will open May 12, 2014.


The caption says “This aerial shows the portion of the new Southwestern University Park that has had the field turf installed. With twenty-seven days until opening night work is continuing on the ballpark around the clock.”

The article was posted April 15, 2014.

it is hard to believe what I read in the Times.

We deserve better


News from Tucson

April 18, 2014

This post was sent in by a reader:

While this may being up a sore subject for baseball fans in El Paso since it was directly responsible for El Paso losing its AA team, you might want to remind your readers that John Q. Hammons and Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri are prime case studies in how rich people who care about their communities get stadiums built. John Q. Hammons payed the entire construction costs. Springfield payed exactly $0 for a state of the art AA baseball stadium that is better than most, if not all, AAA stadiums. It also came in well below the budgeted amount for El Paso. Since my father-in-law lives in Springfield, I have been to baseball games there many times. It is one of best places to watch a game. All of this without any fussing by anyone, without tax increases. Springfield enjoys all the benefits of a stadium with none of the cost. This is how all stadiums should be built.

As a further note, it should be realized that no one wanted the Tucson Padres. I know. I live in Tucson. I have followed this since Portland got evicted and sought refuge here. Somehow, El Paso got into a bidding war against itself and still managed to lose. It makes me glad Tucson didn’t have any interest in keeping them. I’ll miss baseball in Tucson, but I will carry on with from the comfort of my home. No heat, better baseball, cheaper concessions.

 I hope for El Paso that the stadium is a success for the city, but as major league teams seek evermore control of their minor league teams, franchising minor league baseball will probably be coming to an end. I also hope El Paso can weather the coming storm.

Then came the surprise

The same reader sent me this note later:

One other nugget of information is that San Diego’s affiliate agreement with Portland/Tucson/El Paso is up at the end of the 2014 season. That means with August as the expected stadium completion date, El Paso could find itself without true minor league baseball before their minor league baseball stadium is finished.

We deserve better



The county can count

April 17, 2014

It seems that there are limits to the ball park story, at least at the county.

According to an El Paso Times article “Negotiations between the county and MountainStar over the use of the county’s parking garage fell through after the group offered to lease 600 parking spaces on games days for their employees for $1 a year”.

We don’t know if that offer was for $1 per year per parking space or $1 per year for the whole thing.

The sports group probably does not really plan to have 600 employees.  If they do, expect to pay a lot for each hot dog.  If it is true that the sports group wanted 600 spaces, it would seem reasonable to assume that the sports group was going to re-sell the spaces.

It is hard for me to believe that the sports group offered only $1.

Either way it would appear that they taxpayers are not going to subsidize this part of the plan.

Maybe the county could help the city learn how to negotiate better.

Something got better


EPISD cuts

April 16, 2014

The El Paso Independent School District superintendent wrote a guest column for the El Paso Times that was published last Sunday.

Enrollment is declining at the district and thus state and federal funding is being reduced.

He mentioned teacher cuts and other changes that are being considered.  He asked for community input and pledged to “continue to learn and listen”.


There are a myriad of reasons why many things at the district seem to be inefficient from a cost perspective.  Rather than talk about the bloat that is caused by mandates (or the way the district chooses to interpret them), let me offer some suggestions that are within our control.

  • Don’t spend the $57 million from the 2007 bond issue just because you have the money.  The voters approved that money for a new high school.  As it turns out we don’t need one.  Save the money and the interest.
  • Don’t build a new central administration facility.  EPISD staff estimates currently indicate that this will be a $40 million project.  Work with the city to stay where you are.  Let the voters know if city council forces this spending on us.
  • Quit spending money to have unique designs for each school.
  • Maintain your buildings so that they last.  Quit neglecting maintenance until it costs less to replace a school than fix it.

We deserve better



CBP thanks you

April 15, 2014

The City of El Paso signed an agreement with the U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) organization at the end of January of this year.

The plan was to use $1.5 million of city money to fund overtime pay for customs officers in order to shorten waiting time at our international bridges.

The Times quoted the the CBP port director as saying:

“The goal is to get the wait times down to 15 minutes and no more than 30 minutes. We can’t go out and guarantee that. But the goal is to keep the wait times low and manageable.”

And the answer is

The folks over at post a “bridge wait times” section on their home page.

The CBP reported numbers for April 12, 2014 at 3:41 PM show the wait time at the Cordova bridge (aka Bridge of the Americas and free bridge) to be 50 minutes.

The user submitted passenger data section shows a 117 minute wait at 7:15 AM on the same day and 127 minutes at 12:49 PM.

We deserve better


Just do it, we can force city council later

April 14, 2014

Item 5.1 on the April 15, 2014 city council agenda would authorize an additional $200,258 for design services related to the new ball park.  That brings the new total to $4,020,838.


The backup material says that the design firm will:

  • Modify the right field building by shifting back the east facade (facing the playing field) by 4 feet
  • Relocate an elevator shaft, increase the size of other elevator shafts, and change one elevator from freight to passenger
  • Change the team store design
  • Redesign the playing field drainage system

Other changes were listed.

Better hurry!

If the ball park needs design changes and is scheduled to open this April 28 those designers need to hurry.

We all know that those services must already have been performed.

We deserve better



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