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Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Open Letter to Judge Cobb: "So go ahead and threaten me with your district judge"


You should pay attention to what Pct. 1 Commissioner Ingalsbe asked you, "Why is the county trying to settle when because of inaction by Ramus' attorney the case is on a DWOP (dismiss for want of prosecution) docket?"


Note: The RoundUp and Contributing Editor Charles O'Dell have reported on this sordid matter for more than three years. O'Dell has authored no less than nine stories. Click on the links at the bottom of Carolyn Logan's letter for the background and more. County
officials are determined to continue playing their game of political chicken with the rules and the law, and, it seems, with anyone who challenges their authority. Friends of the court continue to get favored treatment as in the case of a resident whose county fees for a reinstall of a septic system were waived recently at the request of Commissioner Will Conley and approved unanimously by the court.

Ms. Logan resides on the far east side of Hays County. She has suffered much indignity at the hands of county authorities over a neighbor's disputed septic system that has wound up in district court. Rather than follow the court's docket to dismiss the case, county officials are demanding Ms. Logan "settle" at a cost to her. In our view, the county's forcing a settlement to score a political point and to "show who rules" is not a fair settlement for Logan nor is it justice. This morning, we e-mailed a request for a comment from County Judge Bert Cobb, asking specifically what he meant when he told Logan he has his "district judge in place." As of press time, we had yet to receive a response.

Judge Cobb,

Concerning the meeting last Friday, March 25th, with you and Commissioner Ingalsbe, I explained to you that as intervenor in Ramus' suit against Hays County that all I asked for was for the county to follow it's own rules. I said that Ramus built most of his project under the eyes of Tom Pope and Hays County before he had submitted plans and state and county required documentation. I said that Ramus never went to commissioners’ court to ask for a variance and he never got one. I said there were many installers including Doug Wheatley who looked at the property and declined to design and construct the OSSF, because it was not feasible for many reasons. I had official documents for all of these points and others, including copies of the Snowden Engineering reports saying that the permit should not have been issued because the OSSF would not hold up for long and it would put the environment and neighboring properties in a health and safety risk.

You cut me off with your question of, "What did the judge tell you"? I told you the judge did not rule on the septic system, but ruled on whether the county had the ability to rescind a permit. You refused to look at my pictures of the failed septic system and the cesspools that would not leach. You said that I had e-mailed you pictures for the last 3 years, that is not true. Until the night that I ran into you at the --------- Restaurant, where you and I talked about your proposed run for county judge and how Jim Powers, Linda Kinney and others were putting out great efforts to dissuade you from running, I had not seen or talked to you in many years.

You refused to look at legal documents stating the county did not follow or enforce its or the state's laws on the Ramus OSSF and that included a signed and sworn verification by Tom Pope that all statements contained in the documents are true.

You wanted to know why I was not talking to Kennedy because, "Mark Kennedy was in charge of this issue." Debbie told you that just a couple of days earlier Mark said to her that he didn't know anything about a DWOP docket that this case was set for dismissal on or a proposed settlement.

You said that you wanted this case to end. You said that you are looking to, "save the county MONEY." You said that you have, "your district judge in place and that he is going to order me to pay Ramus' atty fees and grant him a legal permit if I didn't agree to a settlement." I told you that I will not agree to pay to give up my property rights or my right to protection under the law, and that you all know that failed system is unsafe.

You said that Ramus had to have a permit to sell the property and asked if I didn't want to see him move. I told you that I didn't care if he moved or not, I just wanted to protect my livestock and family from his failed OSSF and the huge amount of commercial restaurant sewage that the permit granted, illegally. You said that Ramus, "needs the permit to sell the property because his money man flew and he doesn't have any money." I said that is no concern to me. You said when he sells the property that the county would have to re-inspect the system before it is put into operation, if it wasn't up to code it wouldn't be allowed to operate and I told you that it is in operation because there is only one system out there and Pope allowed him to connect the residence to the failed commercial system. I also said that it would be fraud to do that to an unsuspecting buyer. I said that Ramus swore in his Chartwells suits that he was going to have to sell his property and offered copies of his deposition to show you that.

You also said that you had been on and walked every inch of his property. Pct 1 Debbie Ingalsbe wasn't privy to nor did she walk every inch of his property with you. Yet, you refused to answer when, why, or who you were with. I told you that there are no audio or visual safety alarms turned on to that system. You started yelling at me that I better not be trespassing, I told you that I wouldn't set foot on that filthy place if someone rolled out a red carpet, I said that I didn't need to be on his property in order to see every inch of it. I simply had to step on to my back porch, pasture or the public property.

You said that you had a deal with me. I don't agree. Who had the authority to make a deal? You want to save the county money and you have your District Judge in place that will order me to pay if I don't settle. Well, as I said to you I am not paying to agree to give up my rights to protection under the law or property rights conspired to and violated by Tom Pope and Nick Ramus, or to a conspiracy for an act to defraud a unsuspecting buyer with a known illegal permit and septic system. Ramus is not going to sell the property, if he did that place would have to be razed and the junk hauled to a landfill, this is the same thing he claimed in his Chartwells suits. Anyway, that is his business and responsibility, not the county’s.

This whole illegal septic Health and Safety issue that was created by Conley/Pope and Ramus, spun as a, "neighborhood feud," and advanced by Jim Green and Barton for political reasons is as corrupt today as it was when they initiated it. It is common knowledge that, "two commissioners took a stand and are not budging," Conley is going to "protect his staff'. Well their "stand" has given power and encouragement to a former psychiatric patient and has put my life in HARMS WAY, and I no longer enjoy peace on my 34 year homestead because of the corruption and political games played out by these players. It has been obvious that there is no price to pay for Ramus or Pope. So go ahead and threaten me with your district judge. Go ahead and get your district judge's ruling, I've already been through that once in this dirty, rotten political game. Your job and that of the commissioner's court is to uphold the laws of the state and county, didn't you swear to that in your oaths of office? Or, did you swear to "protect our staff" when you know they did not and are not enforcing the law, because of a corrupt political stand?

You should pay attention to what Pct. 1 Commissioner Ingalsbe asked you, "Why is the county trying to settle when because of inaction by Ramus' attorney the case is on a DWOP (dismiss for want of prosecution) docket?"

The problem is that Pct. 1 Commissioner Ingalsbe is not aware of or a part of all the dealing and background movement in this case that has not been noticed on any agenda in the last 3 months.

I still want my rights to the law, because I am not willing to let my land be used for Ramus' drain field for the illegal commercial system that is in operation because of Tom Pope's corrupt actions and by this twice convicted Public Nuisance.

Sincerely,
Carolyn


Ramus punishment delayed pending ruling
High stakes suit
Victim in long delayed deadly conduct
Justice turned on its head
Hello Health Department: We've got a problem here
Clear and present danger
Attacking our democracy
Political games and public trust
Commissioners court: The good, bad and ugly
Hays County Government: By and for the well connected

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's time to stop US corporate tax schemes


Ironically, the Tea Party looked like they were going to be the real deal – using leftist civil disobedience strategies to try and forge a more “true conservative” populace America. But sadly, instead of recreating Norman Rockwell, they ended up creating a 21st century version of George Lincoln Rockwell


Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Boschert at
arrowbiz@texasorp.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Rocky Boschert
Financial Editor

Do you know you pay more money in taxes than many huge well-known U.S. corporations? In fact, the 10 bucks in your pocket is more than many of the largest corporations paid in U.S. taxes in 2009, including Bank of America, Verizon, General Electric, Boeing, and Citigroup. Other companies like Federal Express and ExxonMobil pay effective tax rates of less than 10 percent (even though the “official” corporate tax rate is 35%).

To insult middle class workers even more, these same companies pay their CEOs and top managers $ millions a year in salary and perks – and spend millions lobbying a grateful United States Congress for preferential tax and socially irresponsible regulatory leniency. The Republican Party politicians seem to be the biggest campaign and corporate lobby money whores, but the Democrats are certainly not walking away from the pig’s influential feeding trough.

In what should be a massive public outcry, corporate tax dodgers are taking money directly out of the pockets of middle class workers – which severely hurts the American economy and its citizens. Corporations use foreign tax havens and loopholes to siphon money and jobs offshore - while not paying their fair share of domestic taxes for US infrastructure, public services and the educational investments they directly exploit to achieve their huge profits.

The truth is we would NOT be broke at the federal, state, or county level – IF the politicians would actually represent the people who voted for them. It is a rage-inducing fact that lobby money corrupted politicians are actually helping the rich and the Wall Street corporate elite to drain state and federal budgets (hence, county and city budgets) by giving US multinational corporations huge tax breaks and allowing them to dodge taxes through overseas tax havens.

Here is how the scam works. The average effective U.S. corporate tax rate – the amount of tax corporations actually pay – ends up being far lower than the 35 percent the whining free markets ideologues tout. Thanks to the widespread use by many companies of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks, and because the earnings of many firms are reported on individual, rather than corporate returns, the U.S. raises very little tax revenue from many huge US corporations.

Most relevant, many American multinationals shift most income to low-tax countries. And it turns out that more than half of taxable business income in the U.S. is earned by tax advantaged pass-through companies such as partnerships and S corporations that are set up by the multinationals as lower rate tax havens. These “shell” pass-through business entities then pay lower individual tax rates on this income – but owe no corporate tax at all.

Additionally, corporate tax dodgers hurt smaller responsible U.S. businesses that have to compete unfairly against legal corporate tax “cheats.” A domestic U.S. business that pays its share of taxes honestly because it can’t afford a huge cadre of tax attorneys and lobbyists is at a distinct competitive disadvantage with big corporations that game the system and shift profits to foreign tax havens.

Yes, states are facing the worst budget gaps in living memory – with estimates of combined budget gaps in all U.S. states of over $100 billion. But if we just closed overseas tax havens – even while continuing to allow favorable domestic tax write-offs – it would generate an estimated $100 billion-plus of US tax revenue. And if we made the corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share of taxes we wouldn’t have to make anywhere near the cuts to state and county budgets that particularly punish senior citizens and victimize children.

The combined “legal” tax evasion of both wealthy individuals and multinational corporations deny the US Treasury between $125 billion and $150 billion a year. Hence, responsible US business owners and struggling individual taxpayers have to pick up the slack to pay for the infrastructure and services all of us are privileged to use – including many US transnationals domiciled in the US that make $ billions a year in profits.

It's telling that in the 1950s, a third of federal revenue came from corporate income taxes. By 2009, it has declined to 10 percent. Every year increasingly profitable US multinational corporations are paying fewer taxes – and middle class individuals and smaller businesses are paying more and more taxes.

Examples of Corporate Tax Dodgers

BANK OF AMERICA didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes in 2009. They argue this is because they lost money. Yet Bank of America gave $5.184 million to political campaigns and paid CEO Thomas Montag $29 million in 2009.

BOEING CORPORATION: Over the three year period from 2008 to 2010 had total pre-tax profits of $9.7 billion but did not pay a dime of its profits in federal taxes. Boeing Corporation has 38 subsidiaries in foreign tax haven jurisdictions.

VERIZON: Take out your Verizon phone bill. See the part of the bill where you paid a few dollars in taxes? Guess what? You paid more taxes on your monthly phone bill than Verizon paid in 2009. They reported $24.2 billion in pre-tax U.S. income, and yet “somehow” claimed a federal corporate refund of $1.3 billion.

GENERAL ELECTRIC: Between 2006 and 2010, General Electric told their shareholders they had $26.3 billion in profits, but paid no U.S. taxes.

EXXON-MOBIL: The Texas-based oil giant uses offshore subsidiaries and other loopholes, paying no US taxes whatsoever in 2009. Yet somehow ExxonMobil did come up with $68 million to lobby Congress between 2008 and 2010.

WELLS FARGO: Wells Fargo escaped paying any federal taxes in 2009 by writing all of its losses off after its acquisition of Wachovia. Yet the CEO saw a salary of $5.6 million paid in cash and stock awards of more than $13 million.

So the next time you hear some politician – or some think tank or budget group – say we have a spending problem and not a revenue problem, they are simply exacerbating the problem. The bottom line is this: If you want to solve our enormous national, state, and county budget crises, institute a fair tax on the rich and their corporate cousins (the richest 10% of Americans own 70% of all outstanding US stocks and bonds) – and get rid of our wasteful and outdated military empire around the world.

It’s time we have our own really effective revolution here in America – where we force the monopolistic two-party economic system to relinquish their breast-feeding corporate welfare state. Ironically, the Tea Party looked like they were going to be the real deal – using leftist civil disobedience strategies to try and forge a more “true conservative” populace America. But sadly, instead of recreating Norman Rockwell, they ended up creating a 21st century version of George Lincoln Rockwell.

Bills resurrect the Trans Texas Corridor


Contracts kept SECRET from the public, grant private entity control for a HALF CENTURY, where taxpayers pay toll rates of 75 cents per mile, pay private company for any losses


Note: It will be interesting to see how Rep. Jason Isaac and State Sen. Jeff Wentworth vote or voted on these bills. If it walks and talks like a tax . . .

Send your comments and questions to
roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Terri Hall, Founder and Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom at
terri@texasturf.org, (210) 275-0640 or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Austin, TX - March 29, 2011 – The Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) just won’t die. State Representative Larry Phillips has introduced HB 3789 which resurrects the TTC, without the reviled name attached. It’s a betrayal of Texans who were promised by nearly every elected official in the state that the TTC was DEAD. Many believed it and voted to re-elect Rick Perry and others who swore it was over.

The Texas Senate just passed the first bill, SB 1007, that would sell-off our public roads to the highest bidder on Wall Street (ie - private toll operator) for portions of the Grand Pkwy (SH 99 around Houston). There’s a flurry of other bills to do the same for other specific projects (listed on the Grassroots Action Center of the TURF web site), and several that give blanket authorization for other Texas infrastructure including highways (HB 3789, HB 2801, SB 1651), mass transit facilities; transmission and distribution systems; hospitals; schools; recreational facilities; public buildings; and technology infrastructure, services, applications, and even parking (HB 2432).

There are 26 bills (about half are identical, companion bills) total that would sell our public infrastructure to private corporations in some fashion.

[From Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG): A little history is in order. The Trans Texas Corridor as originally envisioned was a 1,200 foot wide, 4,000 mile network of toll roads that would have criss-crossed the state. It was multi-modal including tollways, trucks lanes, commuter rail, freight rail, power transmission lines, telecommunications, pipelines of all sorts…a terrorist’s dream. It would have displaced one million Texans for just the first corridor alone. The concessionaire would also have the exclusive right to develop all the restaurants, hotels, and gas stations along its tollway.

The TTC was to heist 580,000 acres of land from Texas landowners and hand them over to private, for-profit global toll concessionaires in sweetheart deals that amount to government-sanctioned monopolies for a half century. Hence, that’s why it was dubbed the biggest land grab in Texas history, if not in the entire United States. Trans Texas Corridor repealed?

Now back to the 82nd legislative session we find ourselves in. First, the bill to supposedly repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), HB 1201, got hitched with a bad amendment to enrich the coffers of the Spanish-based company, Cintra, that is currently building the first leg of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 project, called SH 130 segments 5 & 6. This amendment allows TxDOT to raise the speed limit on Cintra’s tollway beyond the current legal limit up to 85 MPH for which TxDOT gets a bigger pay-off from Cintra (the theory is it would incentivize more traffic to take the high speed tollway so Cintra’s willing to pay the highway department for the anticipated bump in toll revenue). The higher the speed limit, the greater the share of the toll revenues TxDOT splits with the foreign company, too (view Ex. 7 of the PPP contract with Cintra here).

HB 1201 passed out of committee a few weeks ago. So even the repeal bill was tainted by special interests. Trans Texas Corridor re-authorized. Within days of hearing HB 1201, Phillips filed HB 3789 which is a blanket re-authorization of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and recreates the Trans Texas Corridor. It would grant the private toll road developers control of not only the toll lanes, but also non-toll lanes, frontage roads, buildings on the tollway, parking areas, rest stops, ancillary facilities, etc., just like the Trans Texas Corridor.

It’s eminent domain for private gain all over again, which is what caused a Texas-sized backlash against the TTC in earnest in 2007, when a moratorium on PPPs was put in place. With the exception of a few projects, the contracts expired in August of 2009. Though the bill deletes the words Trans Texas Corridor (under Section 223.202), the bill subsequently references Chapter 223 of the Transportation Code [Section 284.003 (a) 7], which is the chapter that authorizes the Trans Texas Corridor, and allows the contracts to proceed under the new guidelines of Phillips’ bill (which have less restrictions and public protections than under the previous moratorium).

HB 3789 would allow these PPP contracts to be negotiated and signed in SECRET, without financial disclosures (like toll rates, whether or not it contains a non-compete clause that prohibits or penalizes the expansion of free roads, or public subsidies), and it grants sole authority to TxDOT or a toll entity to negotiate the contract, removing oversight by the Attorney General, Legislative Budget Board, or any elected officials.

The bill re-authorizes these PPPs and this time with NO sunset provision, so the authority is indefinite. Phillips was appointed by Speaker Joe Straus to Chair the House Transportation Committee. Since the bill is authored by the Chair of the committee, it’s almost certain to pass the committee, unless Texans REVOLT as they have in years past. This bill will be heard on Wednesday in the House Transportation Committee in Rm. E2.028, which starts at 8:00 AM.

TURF is asking Texans to call Speaker Joe Straus to ask him to bury the Trans Texas Corridor re-tread bill, HB 3789, and ensure the bill to actually repeal the TTC FINALLY becomes law. A coalition of groups are coming together to oppose the HB 3789, and any bill that advances Trans Texas Corridor-style agreements, including TURF, TexPIRG, Campaign for Liberty, Texans for Accountable Government, Galveston County Tea Party, and Central Texas Republican Liberty Caucus for starters
.]

Update on the debt and a meeting with the County Auditor


From Lenee Lovejoy:

While the Hays County Commissioners' Court was in executive session this week, County Auditor Bill Herzog spoke frankly with me and others about the county budget and debt.

His answers shed light on concerns that "Watch On Gov" reported last week following the County Budget Workshop.

First, in regard to the approximately $42 million revision made to the amount of debt that Hays County held on October 1, 2010: this revision had been made earlier, but the STATEMENT OF INDEBTEDNESS that is posted on the county website had not been updated to reflect this change. This was an oversight and will be corrected.

The county's debt level was revised because a $42,220,000 bond issue that had been projected to take place in September of 2010 did not occur. It is now projected to occur this year.

Second, in regard to the 2010-2011 Budget showing the county operating at a deficit this year: this is indicative of how government budgets work.

As Mr. Herzog explained, a county budget is a comprehensive list of everything that might possibly need to be spent in the upcoming year, rather than a list of everything they believe will actually be spent.

As a result, when a county plans a budget, it is not unusual for it to project expenses that are greater than revenues, and show the difference coming out of reserves.

The important numbers to look at are the actual numbers that are reported after the fiscal year ends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FACT CHECK: Hays County & Citizens' Budget Project on county debt


Forty-two million dollars is a substantial revision of the county's reported debt when compared to the county revenue this year, which is projected to be about $81 million


Note:
"Watch On Gov" Editor Lenee Lovejoy reports that she has received official county documents that verify that key numbers on the county debt were revised downward by over $40,000,000 just before last Tuesday's March 22 Budget Workshop. Additionally, the County Auditor's slide presentation during the Workshop did not disclose the fact that the County will operate at a deficit this fiscal year and is taking money from reserves to cover the gap.

Send your comments and news tips to
roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Ms. Lovejoy at

leneel@centurytel.net, to County Auditor Bill Herzog at bherzog@co.hays.tx.us or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Lenee Lovejoy
Special to the RoundUp

When asked at the Budget Workshop if the county's regular operating expenses plus debt payment would exceed revenues this year, County Auditor Bill Herzog appeared to have difficulty answering the question. This, combined with what appears to be a public attempt by County Judge Bert Cobb to discredit individuals who are speaking out about the county's debt, give the appearance that some members of our county government may be trying to deceive the public about the true state of our county's financial health.

Case in point: Recent articles published in the Dripping Springs, Wimberley and Kyle/Buda papers quote Judge Cobb as saying, “We have spent hours explaining to him the budget, and he still misrepresents the budget.”

Judge Cobb was referring to Sam Brannon, leader of the Hays Citizens’ Budget Project. Has Sam Brannon misrepresented the county financial data, as Judge Cobb has claimed? What is the true health of the Hays County finances? How can we tell? We tell by reviewing information in official county documents.

Mr. Brannon had stated that Hays County debt as of last October was about $258 million and that it was projected to reach nearly $400,000,000 by the end of the current fiscal year, and that the County Auditor had verified that this number was accurate, within about 10%.

Watch On Gov has obtained official documents that show that the county changed numbers related to county debt shortly before last Tuesday's Budget workshop. The County Auditor had originally reported Hays County's debt on the first day of this fiscal year at $257,869,998. This is verified on the Hays County STATEMENT OF INDEBTEDNESS, which is in the front section of the Hays County, Texas Fiscal Year 2010 - 2011 Budget (before the first tab).

Shortly before the County Budget Workshop, however, this number was revised downward by about $42 million dollars, to about $215 million, which is the number shown in the slides presented by Mr. Herzog at the March 22, 2011 Budget Workshop. In other words, the County Auditor has now officially revised the amount of debt that Hays County will report for the first day of the current fiscal year. Forty-two million dollars is a substantial revision of the county's reported debt when compared to the county revenue this year, which is projected to be about $81 million.

The most recent version of the auditor's slide presentation is available on the Hays County website at the link shown at the bottom of this article. When you look at the slide presentation, note specifically the slide titled "What Hays County owed on the 1st day of the fiscal year." (The slide was #11 when Watch On Gov downloaded the presentation on March 27.)

A second important number to look at regarding Hays County Debt is the amount of debt that the county is projected to take on this year as a result of commissioners court issuing and selling bonds. This number is recorded in financial forecasts that are created for Hays County by the firm that advises the County on bond issuance and debt structure, Specialized Public Finance Inc. The forecast is titled "Preliminary Capitol Improvement Program."

The forecast that is currently posted on the county website, which was prepared on March 21, 2010, projects that Commissioners' Court will issue bonds totaling $143,055,000 during this fiscal year (look at the number labeled 'Projected Issuance').

Watch On Gov has obtained a copy of an earlier forecast that was run on July, 2, 2010, and it shows that, at that time, Commissioners' Court was projected to issue $154,295,000 of bonds during this fiscal year. In other words, the county reduced its projection of how much additional debt it would acquire this fiscal year by issuing bonds. It is likely that additional forecasts were created between July 2, 2010 and March 21, 2011. The complete set of forecasts would be needed to determine precisely when this projection was changed and by how much.

Did Mr. Brannon misrepresent the data? Taking the debt number that the County Auditor originally reported for the beginning of this fiscal year ($257,869,998) and adding the projected amount of additional debt that will be added as a result of issuing bonds this fiscal year ($143,055,000), show that Mr. Brannon DID NOT misrepresent the data on Hays county debt when he reported that county debt was projected to reach about $400,000,000 by the end of this fiscal year.

What does this tell us about Hays County's Financial Health? The county's current debt level (revised downward to $215 million) already includes some, but not all, of the borrowing that has been approved by Hays County Commissioners' Court. After bonds are issued for the full amount of borrowing that Commissioners' Court has approved, county debt is likely to be close to $400,000,000. It is not possible to tell from the forecasts presented thus far what the full impact of this debt will be on the county's property tax rate.

The county frequently updates the information on its website so I will post the particular document versions that are referred to in this article later this week, along with a copy of this article, at www.watchongov.com.

To view the most current version of the county auditors' slide presentation, and the Preliminary Capitol Improvement Forecast on the county website go to www.co.hays.tx.us/index.php/government/fy-2012-budget-planning/

Hay County seeks new Precinct 2 building


Note:
The press release was issued yesterday by the county's communications office: laureen.chernow@co.hays.tx.us, office, 512.393.2296


Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court has authorized its construction project management company, Broaddus & Associates, to request bids for design of a new Precinct 2 office after rental and purchase spaces were determined to be inadequate and incompatible for operations or outside of the Justice of the Peace precinct boundaries.

City of Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson recently appeared before the Court to remind officials that the City intends to reclaim its property at 111 N. Front Street for use as an expanded Police Department facility as soon as summer 2012. The County has rented that building to house Precinct 2 offices since 2007, with the understanding it was on a temporary basis.

“Hays County appreciates the partnership we have with the City of Kyle, and respects the city’s need to use its own office space,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones. “Both jurisdictions recognize the need for us to move – the City so it can effectively use space it owns, and the County so it can accommodate the services it is providing for an increased population in the Kyle and Buda areas.”

In the new building the County needs to accommodate offices for the Precinct 2 Commissioner, Constable and Justice of the Peace, along with a courtroom, Sheriff’s Office substation, Adult Probation services and an enlarged Tax Assessor-Collector’s space that would include the office now located in Buda. The County is investigating the possibility of a land swap with the City of Kyle – the County would get property on Kohler’s Crossing near the Plum Creek subdivision as well as some cash, and the City would get County-owned property on Rebel Drive that currently houses the Precinct 2 Constable’s Office.

“We are more than bulging at the seams in our Precinct 2 and Constable’s Precinct 5 offices,” Jones said. “If we can make this work out, the Constable’s office in Buda would get back space it needs when the tax office moves out. At times there is a long line out the door awaiting tax services there, and that problem should go away by consolidating that office into the new building.”

Jones noted the difficulty in finding existing office space – 13- to 15-thousand square feet – in Precinct 2 that could be leased or purchased. “Our offices have to be in Precinct 2 and as County government we’re here long-term,” Jones said, “Given the current low interest rates and construction costs versus rents in the $1- to $1.15-per-square-foot range, it probably makes sense anyway to own rather than rent. We’ll know more when we get the initial cost information we’ve requested.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Conley to citizens: Everything is hunky dory in Hays County


This has been a decade of unprecedented growth in Hays County. We faced the challenges of a booming population, cuts in state funding for road improvements, and the effects of a global economic recession. I am proud to report that our county government was up to the task


Note:
Pct. 3 County Commissioner Will Conley is passing around this opinion piece to local media – a real rarity for Conley who prefers conducting county business largely in private meetings, out of the public view (unless it suits him politically). We appreciate his rosy assessment of the state of the county. Next we should hold hands and start singing Kumbayah. What Conley fails to mention is that growth is tapering off in Hays County, quickly – a result of the recession. Many Hays Countians – teachers and state employees – will soon be out of a job (if they're not already) due to deep cuts in the state budget. There are reports circulating that the cuts may impact TxDOT's ability to maintain farm to market roads in rural areas, passing the costs on to the counties. There is also evidence that some of the road projects Conley mentions cannot be justified by traffic counts or population growth. Through another lens, what we might see of Conley's happy face analysis and his "Super Size It" approach to county spending are very expensive presents to developers, consultants and engineering firms, courtesy of the taxpayers.

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Conley at
will.conley@co.hays.tx.us (office, 512-847-3159) or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the page

By Will Conley

The 2010 U.S. Census numbers are in and Hays County is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. Our current population is 157,500, up from less than 100,000 just one decade ago. With such explosive growth, it is no wonder that so much is going on in your county government.

For almost seven years, I have had the honor of serving as your county commissioner. Amidst this historic growth and despite the challenges of a global economic recession, I am happy to report that the state of our county is strong. In fact, Hays County has made tremendous progress in preparing for the future while maintaining a trim and balanced budget.

We are winding down a very successful parks bond program. In 2007, voters approved an investment of $30 million to meet our growing population’s recreation needs. Now, Hays County citizens have many new parks and conservation areas to enjoy with friends and family. San Marcos enjoyed some of the largest investments, including the Purgatory Creek Preserve, Spring Lake improvements, Five Mile Dam complex, CFPO fields (off Hunter road), improvements to city tennis courts, improvements to city baseball fields, etc. Many of the projects in the San Marcos area were partnerships between Hays County and the City of San Marcos.

Our county road bond program continues to pave the way for our transportation future. In 2008, voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a $210 million bond to improve aging roads and crowded state highways in Hays County.

About ten years ago, the state shifted the burden of improving state roadways to city and county governments. Fast growing counties like ours faced the alternatives of improving these roads ourselves or facing a future of chronic traffic congestion and roads in disrepair.

Our county made the right choice to take our transportation future into our own hands. After we approved the road bond program, I met with state officials to show them the major steps that Hays County was taking to improve state roads within its borders and successfully negotiated that the state put $134 million toward our efforts.

Today, this is touted as one of the best road improvement partnerships in the state. Moreover, the road improvement projects paid for by this bond program are under budget by millions of dollars and on schedule. This means that major roads such as Interstate 35, Ranch Road 12, the San Marcos loop (eastern section), Texas 21, and FM 1626 are undergoing improvement and Hays County taxpayers are getting a great return on their investment.

Finally, we hear a lot about taxes and spending these days. The federal government’s unrestrained spending has built a mountain of debt that is unsustainable at its current level. In stark contrast, Hays County has worked hard to target investments where they matter most by meeting the needs of a rapidly growing population. Our finances are strong. Our credit rating is excellent. Our savings run deep. We only spend what we can afford and we spend it wisely.

This has been a decade of unprecedented growth in Hays County. We faced the challenges of a booming population, cuts in state funding for road improvements, and the effects of a global economic recession. I am proud to report that our county government was up to the task. Programs that prepare for the future, like our parks and road bonds, and sound financial management, give me hope that Hays County will continue to be a great place to live and work throughout the next decade and beyond.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little known agency has plans to pipe groundwater into Hays County


Note:
Barbara Hopson is a Hays County resident and retired educator. She also has a real knack for reporting. While researching water issues, she stumbled upon this little known agency operating virtually in our back yard. They have big plans to import groundwater from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that lies beneath neighboring Caldwell and Gonzalez counties. Get to know the name. One day you may be paying your water bill to the HCPUA. We appreciate Ms. Hopson's willingness to share the news.

This may be coincidence, but just above the HCPUA area on their map graphic, a new Municipal Utility District is being considered. Just days ago our State Rep. Jason Isaac introduced HB 3813 to create the Oatman Hill MUD in northern Caldwell County, in what looks like that NW corner. The MUD would be 1,380 acres approximately.

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Ms. Hopson at
hopsonbarbara@yahoo.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the page

By Barbara Hopson
Special to the RoundUp

I'd never heard of the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA) until yesterday. Right now it is of interest mostly to San Marcos, Kyle, and Buda, but we in Wimberley may be buying (expensive) water from HCPUA or from one of its participants one day.

Map of HCPUA members/Click to enlarge
HCPUA was formed in January 2007, and there is nothing Machiavellian about its formation. It was a matter of three cities and three water suppliers getting together to mutually assure their future water needs. They hope not to depend on anyone else for water. General manager of the project, Graham Moore, was quoted last June that the HCPUA was the only one in the state.

HCPUA cannot impose a tax, but it can issue bonds and apparently plans to do so. (In summer 2010 they were advertising for a bond counsel service. Presumably they now have one.)

HCPUA would get its water from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer beneath NE Caldwell and NW Gonzales counties. A 45-mile pipeline would bring the water from the pumping site to Kyle – if the Gonzales County Underwater Groundwater Conservation District gives a pumping permit.

HCPUA is already buying right of way for the pipeline. The project will cost over $120 million. Kyle will pay more than $34 million for its share in the project. That city wants to sell water to other communities to help pay its own bond debt for the pipeline.

Coincidentally, the Hays County Water and Wastewater Plan (accepted by Hays County Commissioners Court in Feb. 2011) mentions a Kyle-Wimberley pipeline as a possible source of imported water for Wimberley.

The pipeline would travel along FM 3237 to the edge of Wimberley. It's unclear what city or agency would pay for construction of that pipeline. The water that came from Kyle would be expensive, but as the water suppliers are saying now, "There ain't no more cheap water. Deep wells and pipelines are very expensive." The first phase of the pipeline to Kyle is slated to come on line in 2015.

An alternative for Wimberley to buying water from Kyle would be to buy it from San Marcos (also mentioned in the Hays County Plan). A private consortium, Sustainable Water Resources (SWR), wants to build a $500 million pipeline from the part of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer northeast of Austin (Simsboro formation in Bastrop County), all the way to Schertz (San Antonio). An offshoot of that pipeline, to San Marcos, is planned. Wimberley could buy water from HCPUA (at Kyle or at San Marcos) or from SWR – whichever could get the water to Wimberley first, all other things being equal.

The next meeting of the HCPUA Board of Directors is Wednesday, March 23 at 3 p.m. at Kyle City Hall, 100 W. Center Street. The San Marcos City Council will hear a report from Kim Porterfield (SM Council member & Vice Chair of HPCUA) on Thursday night, March 24 in San Marcos.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

County debt grows by more than 1,600 percent since 2000 – is it too much?


Add Buda's estimated $8,400 debt per household, Kyle's $7,300 debt per household and the Hays Consolidated ISD's $20,000-plus debt per household and you can see where it's all going

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to the Citizens' Budget Project at LoveHaysCounty@hotmail.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

"How much is too much debt?"

The question is being fiercely debated from the halls of Congress to the steps of the Hays County Courthouse. It is also a question central to the Hays Citizens' Budget Project, led by San Marcos resident Sam Brannon (UT-BBA). Brannon gave his ninth and latest presentation Sunday afternoon at the Wimberley Community Center. Eighteen people attended. Nine added their names to a growing list of citizens who want Hays County government to check its spending and reduce its debt. The presentation provided a wealth of information on county finances and potential areas of savings, generated a lot of questions and good discussion.

Brannon's well sourced slide presentation revealed some eye-popping numbers. They have to be explained in the proper context, but are unsettling nonetheless and really do beg the question "how much is too much?" The federal debt, for example, has grown 164 percent since 2000 while Hays County's debt has ballooned 1,679 percent in the same time period. It now stands at $216 million and is projected to rise to around $400 million within a few years. The debt equals to about $8,000 per household in the County. Add Buda's estimated $8,400 debt per household, Kyle's $7,300 debt per household and the Hays Consolidated ISD's $20,000-plus debt per household and you can see where it's all going – up, up and away. Can you handle it?

Hays County Commissioners Court is hosting a budget review and workshop (10 a.m.) at their Tuesday March 22 meeting. Come early, a big crowd is expected. Some are saying commissioners are staging the workshop to allay the public's concerns over the county's mountainous debt and to push for the more than $100 million in capital projects (not yet started) on the court's dinner plate. Taxpayers should know the projects are not etched in stone – they can be stopped, delayed or winnowed down. If the workshop settles nothing, we hope at least commissioners and Judge Bert Cobb will level with the citizens and explain just how much debt they think is too much.




Government requests to withhold information from public rise sixfold since 1998


This (legislative) session, more than two dozen bills have been introduced to exempt additional government information from public release or enable agencies to charge more money for making documents available


Note:
In case you missed it, here's a sobering story about our local governments increasing efforts to stall or withhold open record requests . . . from the public they serve, no less. Hays County governmental entities are playing this shell game to the hilt, as if to tell the public "what we do is really none of your business."

A very recent example is a letter sent to Attorney General Greg Abbott from the City of San Marcos:

"Dear Mr. Abbott:

The City of San Marcos ("City") received the above-referenced request on March 14, 2011 (Exhibit 1). By copy of this letter, the City is informing the requestor that the City believes the requested information (Exhibits 2 and 2A) to be excepted from public disclosure under S552.108(a)(2) of the Texas Government Code . . .

"The City respectfully requests an opinion. Please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned at (512) 393-8150, should you require additional information."

Read the complete story at this link:
http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/government-requests-to-withhold-information-from-public-rise-1331771.html

By Chuck Lindell
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Published: 9:27 p.m. Friday, March 18, 2011

On an average day last year, the Texas attorney general received 87 letters from government agencies seeking permission to withhold information requested by reporters, taxpayers and other interested parties.

The daily deluge added up to 21,044 requests to keep information private in 2010, a sixfold jump since 1998. The number reflects greater citizen use of the Texas Public Information Act, a growing number of exceptions to disclosure added by the Legislature and, open government advocates say, attempts by some agencies to stall time-sensitive investigations.

Whatever the reason, the trend is a sobering coda on the last day of Sunshine Week, observed annually by media organizations promoting openness and transparency in government. It's also a challenge for the attorney general's open records division, which in most cases must grant approval before a governmental body can deny requested information.

Transparency is essential to democratic function, and state law requires the division to interpret the Public Information Act in favor of openness. With a deadline of 45 business days to research and answer each request, the staff of 36 assistant attorneys general produces letter opinions at an average rate of 2½ per day per attorney.
[snip]

Minimal research by the requesting agency could answer many questions about whether certain documents must be provided, they said, but involving the attorney general often delays releasing information that has repeatedly been determined to be publicly available.

Sometimes, the delays are intentional, Elkins said. "We hear those complaints all the time," he said. "It happens every day."

Another problem, Elkins said, is when agencies say they have 10 days to fulfill an open records request. "That is a clear violation of the law," he said.

In the 2009 legislative session, the Public Information Act was amended 20 times to exempt information from release or change how the law was applied. This session, more than two dozen bills have been introduced to exempt additional government information from public release or enable agencies to charge more money for making documents available, according to a database kept by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Three meetings set on Hays County debt & spending

Our goal is simply to have an open discussion via Public Hearings on the financial situation to reach some agreement on how good or bad the county’s finances are, and to act responsibly until we’re satisfied that we’re in ok shape

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Brannon at sam_brannon@hotmail.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

An update from HCBP coordinator Sam Brannon

Mark your calendars for three big events in three days – The Hays Citizens' Budget Project: "Hays County at a Crossroads."

Join us in Wimberley, Sunday March 2o, 3-4 pm at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 RR 12 / in Buda, Monday March 21, 7-8:30 pm, the Buda Fire Station Meeting Room, 209 Jack C. Hays Trail / and at Tuesday's March 22 Commissioners Court meeting 9 am, third floor at the Courthouse in San Marcos.

The first two are very important meetings. We’ll be discussing the debt and spending situation in Hays County. In the Buda presentation, we’ll also be discussing the City of Buda and the City of Kyle who are dealing with their own debt and spending issues.

In short, all three governmental entities are in about the same situation: Skyrocketing debt and spending over the last ten years, particularly in the last four years. We’ll also discuss ways to get the debt and spending back under control, and how ordinary citizens can provide meaningful guidance to our elected officials on these very important matters.

Also join us at the Tuesday Commissioners Court meeting for a county "Budget Workshop."

We’d really like to have you there in person, but if you can’t make it, you can watch from your computer at home or work: http://www.co.hays.tx.us/index.php/government/comm-court/court-video/

The description below was posted on a Hays Republicans yahoo board. While I’m unsure of the source, it sounds about right. (Commissioner Ingalsbe confirmed on Wednesday that I’ll also be presenting on behalf of the Hays Citizens’ Budget Project.)

The principal agenda item for the March 22, CC meeting will be an informative presentation of the upcoming county budget for fiscal year 2012. It will lay the groundwork for the future budget discussions that will continue throughout this Spring and Summer. The final budget will be adopted in late September.

The members of the court will be joined by, among others, the county’s bond and financial advisor, road improvement managers, and auditor. The public will have opportunities to comment, as well.

There have been a lot of rumors flying around about our Hays Citizens' Budget Project, and even some directed toward me. The best I can do is to invite you out to all three events to draw your own conclusions about the quality of the data that we’re presenting and its contextual accuracy. So far, the response has been very good. Over 80% of those who have heard our presentation have signed on to the project, and we’re now up to 79.

Our goal is simply to have an open discussion via Public Hearings on the financial situation to reach some agreement on how good or bad the county’s finances are, and to act responsibly until we’re satisfied that we’re in ok shape.

As for other rumors, about a month ago, Judge Cobb accused me of misrepresenting the data while we were talking in his office. When I asked him for specifics, he could not name any.

Judge Cobb was recently quoted in the Dripping Springs, Wimberley and Kyle/Buda papers saying, “We have spent hours explaining to him the budget, and he still misrepresents the budget.”

I emailed Judge Cobb yesterday requesting clarification on the quote, and specifics. His response to me this morning was, “Tuesday should clarify all the issues as we answer the questions you have raised for the record so that everyone has the same information.”

I guess he’s counting on the Big Guns – the road consultants, the debt consultant – to make his case for him. There’s never a lack of political theater here in Hays County.

The public is invited to join us Sunday and/or Monday, and I hope you’re able to join us at the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday as well.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where our school tax dollars really went: The Texas Growth Machine


Rick Perry got over on the Tea Party because they failed to do their homework. Perry’s largest donors, like homebuilder Bob Perry and other hogs at the public trough, are getting water pipelines, roads and other infrastructure for pennies on the dollar, subsidized by the taxpayers they are driving off a cliff

Note:
Ms. Curtis also wants to remind all of the "Water War" conference scheduled Saturday March 19 in Bastrop. Go to the IndyTexans website below for the details.

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Ms. Curtis at
ljcurtis@indytexans.org or click on the "comments" button below the story

From Independent Texans
Linda Curtis
Published March 6, 2011

The recent “Save Our Schools” rally at the Capitol, with 12,000 attendees from across Texas, was a different kind of education rally. First, Texas Association of Business’ Bill Hammond, a Rick Perry ally lent his support. More importantly, the rally organizers turned from the typical “no cuts” ballyhoo to focus on one important underlying question – where did the $27 billion shortfall in our state budget come from? Our school tax dollars got gobbled up by the Texas growth machine.

In 2006 a study by the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts (TAAD) revealed that across the state large-scale commercial properties were, on average, under-valued by 40%. The logical conclusion from the TAAD study was published in the Dallas Morning News in 2006. Roughly $4 billion per year that should have been collected in property taxes was not. The average elementary student can figure out that that’s about equal to the state’s crushing deficit.

Rick Perry got over on the Tea Party because they failed to do their homework. Perry’s largest donors, like homebuilder Bob Perry and other hogs at the public trough, are getting water pipelines, roads and other infrastructure for pennies on the dollar, subsidized by the taxpayers they are driving off a cliff. There’s no exchange of cash or checks. It’s not a “donation.” It is a perfectly legal payback. Officials from the Comptroller’s office down to city government, simply turn their heads to the problem they’ve known about for at least six years. Meanwhile, local and state governments (Democrats and Republicans) lower the costs of critical infrastructure, water lines and roads in particular. It’s all about subsidizing developers who are simply out to make as big and fast a buck as possible as 1,000 people per day move to Texas.

In 2009, a small real estate developer and a founder of ChangeAustin.org, Brian Rodgers, brought just a sample of the problem in Travis County, amounting to $120 million in under-valuations to the Travis County Commissioners Court. Rodgers found out, in a subsequent study he commissioned on the costs of growth in Austin, that for every new home built, $25,000 in public infrastructure costs are off-loaded onto current residents. In Austin alone, that amounts to $150 million per year. One wonders what the costs of growth are now in some other big growth counties like Bastrop (28%), Hidalgo (36%), Comal (39%), Guadalupe (47%), Denton (53%), Montgomery (55%), Colin (59%), Hays (60%), Williamson (69%), Ft. Bend (69%) and Rockwall (82%).

Nationally recognized researcher and community planner, Eben Fodor, author of Better Not Bigger, released a study last December, based on the new Census figures demonstrating that unfettered growth can actually lead to a decline in per capita income.

Rodgers’ and Fodor’s point is that you cannot stop growth, but you sure can make growth pay for itself.

The Texas Water Development Board, all Perry appointees, are looking for even more goodies for developers by pushing for a constitutional amendment for state backed bonds for water reservoirs and other controversial projects such as water pipelines — a holdover from the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) boondoggle. It is the proverbial plan to steal from Peter, like Bastrop and Lee counties’ groundwater, to pay Paul, developers who continue to build in water poor Hays and Bexar counties.

Our best guess is that about $100 million was spent pushing the TTC when Texans were overwhelmingly opposed to it. About 1.3 million Texans voted for independents Carole Strayhorn or Kinky Friedman for Governor, many based on their opposition to the TTC. But we went back into hiding after 2006 and Rick Perry got over on all Texans again. So, the real answer as to where the money went is that it went into the pockets of Rick Perry’s growth lobbyist friends.

George Washington’s farewell address in 1793 was his most important political lesson. He gave it just 23 years after the real Tea Party took place in Boston Harbor. By then, our first President was fully aware of the treachery a partisan political system that was firmly entrenching itself. He strongly warned about how it can enable “unprincipled men” to, “subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Perhaps Texas voters are ready to pass the father of our country’s political test this year. Caution: Never underestimate the voracious appetite of a hog. They really can’t stop helping themselves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HTGCD resolution reaffirms landowner interest in groundwater


Note:
Woodcreek resident Richard Sullivan, a regular at Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board meetings, attended last night's special meeting. This is his take on the action. The next regular board meeting is scheduled Monday, March 28 at the Sunset Canyon Baptist Church. Click on the link to download the agenda. HTGCD website: http://haysgroundwater.com/

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Sullivan at
rlsnpjs@anvilcom.com, to the District's general manager at manager2@haysgroundwater.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Special to the RoundUp


The Board passed a resolution offered by District 3 Director Mark Key, that recognizes a vested ownership interest by a landowner in the groundwater beneath their property while protecting groundwater for the future.

The audience was comprised mostly of landowners and no one spoke against the resolution except Board Vice President David Baker, of District 4, who read a rather long alternate resolution that he credited to Greg Ellis the HTGCD’s attorney. It was so long and rambling that nobody appeared to take it seriously.

Board President Jimmy Skipton, District 1, stated that the Board had not authorized Ellis to offer that version and he wasn’t going to pay for the submission. It was claimed by Baker to be an improvement and would be better at preventing legal challenges than the original. No one on the Board or in the audience seemed to buy that argument and some speakers stated that it confused or completely gutted the original while a few in the audience mumbled that the board should hire a new lawyer. The alternative resolution never gained traction.

The vote was taken as 3 to 1 for the resolution within one hour and the meeting was adjourned.

Board member, Dr. Joan Jernigan did not attend.

The Resolution as presented and passed:

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, private ownership of groundwater has been recognized in the State of Texas since 1904; and

WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature recognized the ownership and rights of landowners in groundwater under Section 36.002 of the Water Code; and

WHEREAS, the long-term management of groundwater will likely require the amount of groundwater that can be produced by property owners to be limited;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, the Board of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, hereby recognize that all property owners have a vested ownership interest in groundwater beneath their property; and

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we believe this vested ownership interest entitles all property owners to produce a reasonable amount of groundwater; and

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we believe that this right is subject to fair and reasonable regulation by the district that recognizes this vested ownership interest while protecting groundwater for the future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guadalupe County delegation told full public education funding not possible


Kuempel also claimed that the 2003 budget crisis was essentially the same as the one we're in now and we know that too to be false and again we'll get the details together in order to refute it


Note:
This dispatch was sent by Guadalupe County neighbor J. C. Dufresne on his recent visit to the Capitol to lobby for full public education funding. Nothing doing, he and his troop were told by their State Rep. John Kuemple. The message from the staff of their (and Hays County's) State Sen. Jeff Wentworth was Gov. Perry will certainly veto full funding if it involves raising taxes. So there you have it, bull headed resistance to raise taxes at the state level to fully fund public education and a big Hail Mary Tax Pass to the local districts. If you've paid a visit to your state rep or senator, or plan to, please feel free to share your experience with the RoundUp.

Send your comments and news tips to
roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Dufresne at
jcdufresne@satx.rr.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story. Sen. Wentworth's Capitol office number is (512) 463-0125.

Special to the RoundUp

While we were received cordially at both of our meetings and were carefully listened to, our call to use all of the Rainy Day fund and raise taxes as necessary to fund education to the level of the last biennium fell on deaf ears.

Senator Wentworth was delayed in a committee meeting and couldn't get back to his office in time to meet with us but a member of his senior staff did listen to what we had to say, when we suggested raising taxes in order to adequately fund education she immediately responded that "the Governor said he would veto any budget that raised taxes." We told her we wanted a commitment from the Senator to fully fund education and she said she'd relay our concerns to the him.

Representative Kuempel was available and was very cordial but he responded to our request to fund education at the level of the last biennium with the same false claims that Governor Perry has made, specifically that the percentage of administrators vs classroom teachers has "exploded over the last decade." We know that to be demonstrably false but I didn't have any data to refute it at the time. We'll be researching it and responding to him in the next few days.

Kuempel also claimed that the 2003 budget crisis was essentially the same as the one we're in now and we know that too to be false and again we'll get the details together in order to refute it.

Eight activists from Guadalupe County made the trip to Austin Monday, they are: Barbara Effenberger of Seguin, John Futch of Seguin, Harvey and Stella Hild of Marion, Pablo and Kathy Arteaga of Cibolo, Duane McCune of Schertz and JC Dufresne of Cibolo.

Please thank them when you see them and we thank you for your phone calls to Senator Wentworth and Representative Kuempel. Please keep them up so that they continue to feel pressure to do the right thing.

JC Dufresne State Democratic Executive Committeeman, SD25 President, Dem's Café 141 Lindy Hills Cibolo, TX 78108 210-566-3367

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why property taxes are too high for the average taxpayer


From a fatalist perspective, one would assume that the electorate in Texas enjoys being abused by unfair taxation, since it keeps electing the same lackeys for the rich and powerful


Note: Here's something to chew on while our Legislature's in session, making deep cuts in the state budget, putting even more pressure on local taxing entities and hard pressed low and middle income taxpayers to pick up the pieces. Reports are that drastic cuts in public education will be shorting local school districts many millions of dollars. Our county, school districts and cities are assessing the damage. Over the spring and summer, they will be reviewing their next year budgets. There's a high probability that some or all of the new budgets will come with . . . another round of property tax increases. If you think you've had enough, now's a good time to give your elected representatives a piece of your mind.

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Moden at
mlmoden@gmail.com, to State Rep. Jason Isaac at Jason.Isaac@house.state.tx.us (512- 463-0647), State Sen. Jeff Wentworth at jeff.wentworth@senate.state.tx.us (512-463-0125) or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Merle Moden

Ad valorem taxes – property taxes – are a major source of funding for Texas school districts, cities and counties. The burden of this tax has been increasing in recent years as a result of steadily increasing appraisals and stagnating incomes.

The ad valorem tax as contemplated in the Texas Constitution is a tax on wealth. Prior to the age of computers, Texans were required to render their property for taxation each year. The tax base, i.e., those things being taxed, as specified and required in Article 8, Sec. 1(b) of the Texas Constitution is composed of: (a) real property - land and buildings (appraisal districts refer to buildings as improvements to land); and, (b) tangible personal property (livestock, wagons, cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, etc.). Household goods not held or used for the production of income are exempt under Article 8, Sec. 1(d) among other exemptions. Article 8, Sec. 1(c) of the Texas Constitution grants the Legislature the authority to include in the tax base intangible personal property (bank deposits, savings deposits, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc.).


Texas Legislatures through the years have whittled down the tax base primarily to real property and personal property for businesses. For individuals, the ad valorem tax is levied primarily on the necessity to live somewhere – not wealth as originally contemplated. Now, we tax a $20,000 lot in a subdivision, but we don’t tax an $80,000 car, a $250,000 boat or a $500,000 stock portfolio.


Why are investments in land and buildings included in the tax base when investments in cars, boats, and stocks are not? The answer is amazingly simple. Wealthy individuals have most of the wealth in this country; expanding the tax base to include these items would subject them to higher taxation; and they choose not be taxed. How is that possible? The answer again is amazingly simple. Texas Legislatures do the bidding of the rich and powerful, as they have done these last many decades.


From a fatalist perspective, one would assume that the electorate in Texas enjoys being abused by unfair taxation, since it keeps electing the same lackeys for the rich and powerful. Inclusion in the tax base of tangible personal property with reasonable exemptions for cars plus the inclusion of intangible personal property with reasonable exemptions for small savings and investment accounts would significantly expand the tax base. Such expansion would lower the tax rates and shift more of the burden for ad valorem taxation up the wealth scale.


The next time that you have a chat with your State Representative or your State Senator ask him/her why we tax $20,000 lots in a subdivision, but not $250,000 boats or $500,000 stock portfolios. After all, they are all just assets. Why discriminate?


Merle L. Moden is a retired economist. He and his wife, Joy, moved to the Wimberley area from Austin in 1997. He served on the Austin Electric Utility Commission for several years, chaired a citizen’s committee on City of Austin Water and Wastewater cost of service, served on the Travis Central Appraisal District Board of Review, and was president of two neighborhood associations in Austin.


This is not why you people were voted into office


Apparently, there are some hidden agendas and NOT the open government you had promised
Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Stern at pstern@austin.rr.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story.

Click on this link to email your county judge and commissioners


Letter to the Editor:


Dear Judge Cobb and Commissioners Ingalsbe, Conley, Whisenant and Jones,

We have supported each of you in your campaigns this past and in previous elections (even those of you who are not in our district elections). We supported you folks because you promised open local government and a more conservative fiscal policy than your predecessors maintained. After the last Commissioner's Meeting, I find that these must have been just words that you spoke since your actions proved otherwise.

I was against the extravagant road bond package that was approved by the past group of Commissioners, two of which still remain on board. I lobbied with many residents against the first bill, which was defeated, and then lobbied against the second, which unfortunately was approved by the voters by a narrow margin. It was a poor decision, especially in these dire economic times. But, that was then and this is now.

To say we are angered and disappointed with you current commissioners for your recent actions may be an understatement. Apparently, there are some hidden agendas and NOT the open government you had promised. With more Hays County Residents unemployed and/or hurting financially than ever before, how do you commissioners justify your actions to throw more money away on a questionable Precinct 2 building project? This is NOT fiscal conservation, is it? This is NOT why you people were voted in office. Basically, you broke your word.

Hays County Commissioners made a promise to cut spending and we voters expect you to keep your promise. That means no salary increases and no large non-vital expenditures until the economy softens, which is NOT in the foreseeable future.

So, we and our Hays neighbors ask that you cease the building project and to rein-in expenditures across the board. Permit only emergency or vital expenditures and maintain open communication with your constituents. By the way, communication goes 2 ways and NOT just from commissioners to the residents. You also need to listen to and hear your constituents – even if only a handful appear at meetings. Not everyone is able to attend meetings and other avenues must be opened to communicate with additional residents.

The bottom-line is that Commissioners Ingalsbe and Conley had promised to do this in the past and you new folks promised the voters prior to this last election. Please keep your promises and stop wasteful spending.

Thank you.

Respectfully yours,

Peter & Dolores Stern
Driftwood, TX

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Activists, landowners to gather in Bastrop for 'Water War' conference March 19


How can rural and urban communities unite, in the political climate we currently face under one-party rule and the pay-to-play politics of the Perry administration?


Note: We hope many folks from Hays County can attend this seminal water conference. The more who are informed the better. Just as an aside, here's an interesting website belonging to Republicans for Environmental Protection. REP was founded in 1995 as a
grassroots movement dedicated "to restoring the Republican Party's great conservation tradition." See its Texas Chapter Page here. It says, "Texas, unfortunately, has environmental problems that match its size. Air quality in the major cities is frequently unhealthy. Many of our rivers and coastal waters have been degraded by pollution. Growth is putting pressure on water resources such as the famed Edwards Aquifer." Maybe someone from the Texas group will lend a hand at the conference in Bastrop.

Media Release from IndyTexans
March 11, 2011

Willie Nelson won't be there, so far as anyone knows, but the hippies and the rednecks will. The stage is getting set for a show in Bastrop County bringing together rural and urban citizens, similar to the coalition that killed the Trans-Texas Corridor, from throughout central Texas on Saturday, March 19th, to the "Texas Water War: Is there a solution and who decides?" Conference.

It is an all day event being held at McKinney Roughs Nature Trail, just 25 miles east of Austin off Highway 71.

Local ranching and environmental activists have begun calling Bastrop a "crime scene." It is one of several regions where the Texas Water Development Board has lined up with private water vendors and special interests who want to conduct "water grabs," they also liken to the land grab behind the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Water activists, landowners and small farmers and ranchers from across central Texas, where water wars are heating up, are coming together at this event to craft a joint action plan to stop the "Trans-Texas Water Highway" plans of the state bureaucracy under Rick Perry's tutelage.

What's behind the curtains will be revealed at this conference such as answers to these questions: What is driving Texas to become the fastest growing state in the country, with 1000 people moving here per day? Who is paying for this growth? Is there enough water to go around? What is the impetus for the plans that are driving the mismanagement of critical resources, like groundwater in Texas? Who are the people who are doing this? What can ordinary citizens do to prepare for a growing water war in Texas, to protect local agriculture and quality of life in rural areas, and safe affordable drinking water in cities? How can rural and urban communities unite, in the political climate we currently face under one-party rule and the pay-to-play politics of the Perry administration?

Lea Silvernail, a Bastrop single-mother of two, who has been volunteering long hours to put the Water War event on said, "I've been on the phone with folks across the state – from the hippies to the rednecks, Republicans, Democrats and independents of all sorts. They're all saying the same thing – we all drink the same water. We cannot afford to let government or the political parties screw this up. We're going to fight side-by-side on this one because our very lives depend on it."

The conference is sponsored by Environmental Stewardship, Independent Texans, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Neighbors for Neighbors and the Texas Drought Project. Speakers include: Linda and David Stall of CorridorWatch.org, Larry Joe Doherty, wildlife advocate and judge from Washington County, David Baker, leader of efforts to protect the famed Jacob's well natural spring in Wimberley, Bill Bunch of Save Our Springs Alliance in Austin, Brian Rodgers of ChangeAustin.org and several groundwater district officials.

More information can be found here: IndyTexans.org/itblog or by calling 512-535-0989.

This event is free, but reservations are required due to limited seating. Contact Lea Silvernail at silvernaillea@yahoo.com or call 512-535-0989.

Linda Curtis
Independent Texans
IndyTexans.org
512-535-0989 office
512-657-2089 cell