CM Zimmerman’s Shortsighted and Misguided Chapter 380 Idea

Updated on Sept 10th 2015 to add a link to a short city presentation about Chapter 380 agreements.

CM Zimmerman’s latest machinations are an attack on Austin’s eight existing Chapter 380 agreements with companies Austin recruited to the area. His plan is for Austin to reduce its agreed payments to those eight companies by 50% for one year. The “savings” would be given back to property owners, including businesses, via a lower tax rate for one year only. The typical homeowner wouldn’t see much in savings — just a few bucks spread out over the course of a year.

Economic development can be an easy thing to attack when times are good. Chapter 380 economic development agreements, fee waivers, and so forth look like corporate welfare & wasteful spending. While reducing spending and the associated taxes is a laudable goal, defaulting on our Chapter 380 economic development agreements with 8 companies is extremely shortsighted and misguided.

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Gallo’s Risky Tax Freeze Resolution Likely to Pass This Thursday

CM Sheri Gallo has proposed — and likely has the votes to pass, perhaps this week — a property tax freeze for Austin homeowners aged 65 and older. The freeze includes disabled homeowners, regardless of age. Though the freeze sounds like a great way for those homeowners to avoid property tax increases, it is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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Notes/Errors/Corrections – Austin City Council Homestead Exemption Work Session video

UPDATE 5/21/2015: So far, the city has corrected 1 of the items that I have listed below (Item 1). They have come close to correcting a second item (Item 3). I am working on a new way to prove to them that Item 5 exists & is a big deal, without needing to refer to internals of the TCAD database. UPDATE 5/21/2015: Actually, Item 3 is fully & accurately corrected in their revised slides. So, Item 1 and Item 3 are fixed. UPDATE 6/9/2015: I don’t have an updated homestead presentation from the city. However, the city released a fiscal note before the 6% homestead exemption vote. The fiscal note lists the cost to city revenue of a 6% homestead exemption, at the .4824 tax rate, at $7.6 million. This is up from their previous estimate of $5.2 million on slide 18 of the presentation.  That’s great — much closer to what I get in my calculations! This stuff is complicated and quite difficult to write about. I’ve been trying to keep these “UPDATE” sections short, but this one is going to have to be involved, because I need to document this update, in case I need to reference it in the future … Last week, I spent a couple of hours trying to somehow get anywhere near the $5.2 million cost that the city put on slide 18, but could never come close anywhere near it. Thus, I’m not surprised to see the $5.2m number revised (note that the lower half of slide 18 had already been corrected, after I sent the city an explanation of Item 3). Whenever I calculate the cost of a...

Dez Bryant Did Not Need to Make A Football Move For It To Be A Catch

NFL VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, gave a more thorough video explanation of why he and the officiating crew think Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant did not complete a catch against Green Bay in yesterday’s playoff game. You should watch Blandino’s video at this link if you haven’t seen it already. In short, Blandino is saying Bryant needed to make a move common to the game (AKA a “football move”) in order to not be subject to the “going to the ground” provision and that Bryant’s lunge was not sufficient to qualify as a “football move”. Now that you’ve watched that, check out Dean Blandino’s NFL Total Access appearance from 2013 at this link and skip to about 2 minutes in and watch the rest (you’ll have to wait for a commercial at the beginning, but it’s worth it). Pay particular attention to the part where Blandino details the 3 components that must happen in sequence in order for there to be a catch. You will note that step 3 only requires a player to have control of the ball for an amount of time that it would take to make a move common to the game (AKA a “football move”). At this point, you might be a little confused – and rightly so. In 2013, Blandino is saying that a catch happens when you accomplish 3 things – control of the ball, both feet down, and then control of the ball for a long enough period of time that you could make a “football move”. Now, in 2015, Blandino is saying that Bryant must actually perform a “football move”, not just have control of the ball for...

Troxclair, Pressley, Zimmerman and the Tea Party backed CTRN Pledge Pt 1

In September 2014, a group called Citizens for Taxpayer Relief NOW (CTRN) asked Austin City Council candidates to sign a “candidate pledge”. The pledge consists of three items, or requirements, that CTRN believes will lead to greater accountability and fiscal responsibility. Ostensibly, a candidate signing the pledge is agreeing to advocate, implement, and/or vote for the requirements in the pledge, should that candidate be elected

Another requirement would result in across-the-board cuts to the City of Austin budget (salaries, programs, etc) of about 3% a year.

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Homestead Exemption Behind the Numbers – Color Me Exempt

This post provides additional information and commentary about a local Austin 20% homestead exemption and its effects. Read Color Me Exempt in the Austin Chronicle and also Cui Bono – Who Benefits in the Austin Chronicle in order to have context for the information in this post. Note that the Chronicle article published ‘average’ values, which is perfectly valid. Another way to look at it is to use ‘median’ values, which is also valid. The difference between the two is relatively minor – a few bucks on the high end, but nothing that makes much difference. Appraisal Data (TCAD, WCAD) The underlying data is provided by the central appraisal districts. The data files they provide are complicated and their documentation is weak. There are many exceptions within the data, as well as fields that have been added, changed, or removed over time. There is not a 100% accurate & reliable way to easily link the parcel file with the tax data, due to various exceptions and strange corner cases in the data. While those challenges are frustrating, most can be overcome. As someone who has been writing real-estate software, off and on, for the last 7 or 8 years, I am very familiar with the challenges in the data files provided by TCAD and WCAD. If you are attempting to recreate my results and you run into issues, I would be more than happy to meet with you and help you with your database. The data in my system includes about 99.4% of the homestead-exempt properties. There are only a few hundred missing properties (out of more than 130,000). The error...
Pool 5 – Hail Mary email to Council

Pool 5 – Hail Mary email to Council

This is a copy of an email that I sent to the mayor and council and some in the media on Monday, Nov 17, 2014 at about 1pm. I am attempting to get them to follow the law in awarding the Fair Campaign fund, rather than ignoring one part of it. Hanging in the balance is about $55,000 of campaign funding — it’s just a question of who’s going to get it …[click post title to read more]

Pool Saga – Part 3

Pool Saga – Part 3

.. Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter definitive info, weird complaints, questions about the interpretation of the law or what the Clerk may or may not be doing, smackdowns .. [Click the post title to read the rest]

Pool Campaign – Part Deux

Pool Campaign – Part Deux

.. I would recommend that they get proactive – get on the phone and make sure that you are going to be awarded the money from the Fair Campaign Fund; make sure that the personal funds checkbox doesn’t cause an issue .. [Click the post title to read the rest]

Pool campaign will “win” Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter “Lottery” Pt 1

Pool campaign will “win” Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter “Lottery” Pt 1

.. Of the campaigns competing in those districts, only Leslie Pool’s campaign chose to follow Austin’s little understood Fair Campaign Chapter election rules and also filed the paperwork within the required time limits. Pool, should she choose, may request and will receive all of the money in the fund to use in her runoff race .. [Click the post title to read the rest]

Out of Sync Candidates

Out of Sync Candidates

Since I’ve done a couple of pretty serious posts already, I thought I’d give everyone a break and end the week on a lighter note by taking a quick peek at a few candidate websites and quotes and see what they say about traffic light synchronization in Austin .. [Click the post title to read the rest]

Austin Campaign Contributions Excel or CSV Files Now Available

Austin Campaign Contributions Excel or CSV Files Now Available

Though candidate campaign finance reports (CFRs) are available online, they are not easy to work with. Candidates bring printed copies to the Austin City Clerk who scans the printouts and puts the resulting PDF files online for the public to view. … Now, new CSV files containing 2014 contribution data from the July 15th, 30 day, and 8 day, reports are available .. [Click the post title to read the rest]

Austin City Council Candidate Katrina Daniel Bankrolled by Lobbyists

Austin City Council Candidate Katrina Daniel Bankrolled by Lobbyists

On paper, Katrina Daniel appears to be a qualified candidate, running a competitive, no-nonsense campaign for Austin City Council, District 4. Daniel’s campaign finance paperwork, however, reveals a campaign that has raised most of its contributions from lobbyists – [Click the post title to read the rest]