They are getting more sophisticated

February 21, 2020

Let’s hand it to the city for figuring out another way to scam the taxpayers.

The way property taxes work in Texas requires the city to figure out how much money they raised in property taxes last year.

They they look at what the same properties are appraised at this year and must tell us the tax rate that will bring in the same amount of money.  This is called the effective tax rate.  If property values go down they can raise their effective tax rate thus bringing in the same amount of money as last year.  If property values go up they must lower their effective tax rate.  New properties are not part of the equation.

From there if they want to raise more money they are now capped at an increase to the effective tax rate of no more than 2.5%.  If they want to go over 2.5% the voters must be given an opportunity to vote on the issue.

Simple huh?

Well this year as it turns out our central appraisal district folks took a conservative view on commercial property values.  They subtracted 3.3% from what they thought commercial properties were worth just in case the commercial property owners decided to fight their valuations.

This is nothing new, they do it every year.

What was new was the 3.3%.  Normally they take a 1.8% reduction on average.  The net effect according to the city’s own chart was that the city set their tax rate using the 3.3% decrease instead of the 1.8% norm.

The actual calculation requires a little bit of algebra so I will just use the city’s chief financial officer’s numbers.  He said in a city council meeting recently that the result was $10 million of additional revenue to the city.  He then said “we’re over collecting on property taxes”.  The city manager then stepped in and said that they were not really over collecting they were just collecting based upon what the central appraisal district came up with.

The city chief financial officer told city council that city staff did not agree with the evaluation but they used it anyway.

That was really convenient for them.

In reality the city knew that the historical value was 1.8% but used the 3.3% number without taking it back to the central appraisal district for a better understanding.

If they claim that they did not know then they are saying that they are incompetent.

We deserve better

Brutus

 


Partying on our dime

February 18, 2020

South by Southwest is coming again in March.

Will our city and county elected officials spend our money again to go to this party?

In the past they have told us that going is good for our economy.

Have they ever produced any results?

We deserve better

Brutus


Inclusive? Not at all!

February 17, 2020

One of our readers received this via email from the city the other day:

You are invited to participate in the El Paso City Accelerator Inclusive Procurement Survey because you have been identified as a business owner/associate in the City of El Paso. The purpose of the survey is twofold. It will help the City develop a profile of regional businesses, and it will gather information on business certifications and interest in a future certification program by the City of El Paso.

This survey will also allow the City to identify and develop the infrastructure needed to establish a certification program.
The survey will take no more than 10 minutes of your time. Your answers will be held strictly confidential, and in no way affect your business’ standing. Note that if you have multiple businesses, we would very much appreciate it if you would complete a survey for each business. We encourage non-profit and for profit organizations to exclude themselves from taking the survey to ensure that each business is properly counted when developing the regional business profile and assessing certification needs.

Huh?

They encourage non-profit and for profit organizations to exclude themselves from taking the survey…

Do they bother to read what they put out?

We deserve better

Brutus


Why did they publish this?

February 16, 2020

The February 9-15, 2020 issue of El Paso Inc. had an interview with our first city manager.

They wrote:

Then came … a $44 million ballot item for a new ballpark that more than 70% of voters supported…

Not true

The voters were never asked to approve a ballpark.  They were asked to approve using hotel occupancy taxes to pay for it.  If the voters declined approval the bill would have been added to our property taxes.  This is what we voted on:

VENUE PROJECT AND HOTEL OCCUPANCY TAX PROPOSITION

“AUTHORIZING THE CITY OF EL PASO, TEXAS, TO DESIGNATE THE MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STADIUM PROJECT AS A SPORTS AND COMMUNITY VENUE PROJECT WITHIN THE CITY IN ACCORDANCE WITH APPLICABLE LAW AND TO IMPOSE A TAX ON THE OCCUPANCY OF A ROOM IN A HOTEL LOCATED WITHIN THE CITY, AT THE MAXIMUM RATE OF TWO PERCENT (2%) OF THE PRICE PAID FOR SUCH ROOM, FOR THE PURPOSE OF FINANCING SUCH VENUE PROJECT.”

Wrong amount

The Inc’s $44 million number is not true either.

Back in August of 2015 we wrote Latest ballpark numbers and showed our portion of the cost to be over $64 million.

The Inc reporter has been around a long time.

Why would he blatantly misstate the facts?

We deserve better

Brutus


Penny plan

February 14, 2020

In 2018 local voters approved a “penny swap” program for EPISD that transferred money from the debt service budget into the operations and maintenance budget.

What would happen if we implemented a “penny plan” with our city budget?

Such a plan would cut real spending by one penny out of every dollar that our city government spent the year before.

We deserve better

Brutus


Spread the wealth–locally

February 13, 2020

In Thinking that money grows on trees we saw that the city spent $750,000 on those things that have sprouted up on Airways.

They call it public art.

Without getting into a discussion about whether we should spend money on public art, or another discussion about how much we should spend (currently 2% of city capital spending), maybe we should talk about how we spend the money that we have allocated for public art.

Wouldn’t our community have been better off if the $750,000 had been broken apart into smaller projects commissioned with local artists?

Let’s say they had broken the money up into ten $75,000 projects.

We would have public art in more places and we would have supported ten locals.

We deserve better

Brutus

 


Voting by mail

February 6, 2020

You might have received a mailer that invites you to apply for a voting ballot by mail.

I tried this a couple of years ago and learned the hard way.

  • My application evidently committed me to voting by mail the entire year
  • I voted in the primary by mail
  • When I tried to go to the polling place to vote in the runoff I was told that I had to continue to vote by mail
  • The problem was that they mailed my primary ballot but did not mail a runoff ballot.
  • I had to insist that I be allowed to vote in the runoff election.
  • We solved the election judge’s concerns by me signing an affidavit attesting that I had not voted by mail in the runoff
  • The process took 45 minutes

Be careful.

We deserve better

Brutus


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