Category: 2008 Budget
Over the last year, the idea of offering Collin County taxpayers a homestead exemption has been discussed in at least 5 different commissioners court meetings.
With property values rising every year, taxes keep going up - even when the tax rate is cut. Many believe that a homestead exemption is the best way to reduce the real taxes that a typical homeowner pays the county.
At the request of the commissioners, the county budget department created a spreadsheet showing the net effect, on taxes paid by a homeowner, of a tax cut vs. a homeowners exemption.
The numbers make a compelling case for a homeowners exemption.
If no tax cut or homeowners exemption is granted the typical county homeowner will see his taxes go up $23.11 in 2008.
If the county cuts the tax rate from .245 to .24 (a half cent) that homeowners taxes would still go up $10.85
But if a $10,000 homestead exemption were passed, that same average homeowner would be billed for no additional taxes. In fact his bill would go down $1.39.
The homestead exemption passes on tax savings to those who need it most - middle class taxpayers.
The net effect of either plan on the county reserves is about the same.
A general tax rate cut, however mostly benefits businesses with large land or inventory holdings.
Commissioner Jerry Hoagland (ever the stalwart defender of the rich and powerful) made it clear last week that he will oppose a homestead exemption. He claimed exemptions were "too confusing" for the average citizen to understand.
Poppycock, Jerry! You know you are being disingenuous. Virtually every homeowner in the county understands homeowners exemptions. You get one on your city and school taxes, I get one, and almost every other homeowner gets one.
County Judge Keith Self agreed with Hoagland who made a motion to "simplify the discussion", by concidering ONLY a tax rate cut. Self seconded the motion, which was defeated by a 2 - 2 vote.
The issue will be revisited for the 6th time at the next court meeting.
The commissioners court has until July 1 to pass a homestead exemption for fiscal year 2008.
Get ready to pay higher property taxes.
Collin County cities are approving budgets for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
Most aren't raising the tax rates, but why should they?
Local governments are swimming in additional tax revenue, thanks to soaring property values. Homeowners, meanwhile, endure rising tax bills.
The Plano city government, for instance, has almost $8 million in additional tax revenue coming in without raising the tax rate. Frisco will see almost $5 million extra.
Are cities rewarding homeowners with lower tax rates?
Not in most cases.
Elected officials are acting like most of us act with our personal budgets.
They're spending just about everything that comes in.
Noticeably absent in this report is any reference to Collin County's own tax hike and aborted tax cut decision.
Elected Officials Salaries to increase by 5%
In a disappointing vote today, and with little discussion, the Collin County Commissioners approved maintaining the .245 tax rate passed last year.
Because of increased property valuations, the typical homeowner will see county taxes increase by $22.32 to $556.49. County Judge Keith Self voted against the "Maintenance and Operations" portion of the tax rate, but then joined with the rest of the court in approving the total $.245 tax rate.
Along with increased taxes, the Commissioners also unanimously voted themselves a raise - approving a 5% salary increase for all elected officials. County Commissioners will be paid $107,387 in 2008, up $5,000 from 2007.
In an August editorial, The Dallas Morning News noted, "... elected officials need to dispense with this notion that they are somehow underpaid.", while the McKinney Courier Gazette wrote that, "in a time when people are questioning the tax burden, elected officials who decide to give themselves a pay hike are demonstrating a high level of chutzpah."
The Commissioners Court then approved a record $255 million 2008 County Budget. The budget includes higher debt payments, higher salaries and reduced operating expenses county-wide.
As he has done in previous years, Jerry Hoagland voted against approving the annual budget. (While voting 'yes' for the taxes and raises)
For years now, we have argued and campaigned for a more open and transparent county government. In both the 2006 primary and November elections, Open Government was a main campaign theme of all challengers.
One important way a citizen can know what the County is doing is by reading the minutes of its Commissioners Court and other boards and committees.
Last year's decision to post minutes, agenda and commissioners packets on the county website was, we thought, a huge leap forward in opening up the county commissioners court to public accountability.
We still have hopes the decision was not another empty campaign promise.
However, since she took office in January, the new County Clerk, Stacey Kemp, has rarely found a way to post minutes in less than 60 days.
Her record on posting minutes is dismal.
On June 18, 2007 Ms. Kemp's office posted 13 Commissioners Court meeting's minutes covering a period from December, 2006 to May. Several were 6 months late.
Also on June 18, she posted 7 Court workshop minutes, and 9 Health Care Foundation Board minutes. All From January to April.
Then on July 9, her office posted another 10 Commissioners Court and other committee minutes, covering a period from January through June.
On July 25, she got within 30 days by posting the June 26 record. Currently, the last Court minutes on the web are for the July 10th meeting - over 60 days.
It looks like our intrepid County Clerk will once again play catch-up.
On the agenda for Tuesday's Healthcare Foundation and Commissioners Court meetings are approvals for 4 Healthcare Foundation, 3 Commissioners Workshops, and 3 Commissioners Court meeting minutes for July and August.
I've been the secretary of civic organizations. I know that timely filing of minutes is important. Submitting minutes before the next meeting insures their accuracy and lets the members of the committee, as well as the citizens know what has been done and what remains undone.
How can the voters know how their tax dollars are being spent if they can not access and read the Court minutes?
In the 2008 Budget, the County Clerk lists as a Performance Goal to "Provide a complete and accurate summary of the Commissioners Court within 3 days."
What happened to 3 days? What happened to "Pay for Performance"?
After the Budget is approved on Tuesday, Ms. Kemp, as well as all other elected officials will get their 6% raise - regardless of performance.
Absurd and unfair to all the county employees who are rated against their peers on pay for performance. Here in Collin County we have one set of standards for those we hire and a completely different set for those we elect.
That needs to change.
Tuesday, September 11, at 9:00 AM the Collin County Commissioners Court is scheduled to vote final approval on -
The 2008 Tax hike
2008 Elected Officials' 6% salary increase
This is your last opportunity to be heard before the Budget is approved.
Also on the agenda is to discuss and act on 2007 Longevity pay increases, and 2007 merit increases.
The Court is also scheduled to hear a report on the 2007 Regional Transportation Commission's "Comprehensive Development Funding Initiative". (How the tolls from Hwy 121 will be spent)
The second and final public hearing on the 2008 Budget, tax increase and elected officials salaries was held Tuesday evening at the new county courthouse. Attendance was light, with most of the attendees being either county employees or members of a visiting Boy Scout troop.
The bulk of the hearing involved input from several members of the Collin County Association of Realtors. They were there to ask for an increased enforcement focus on mortgage and real estate fraud. Coincidently, District Attorney John Roach was also at the hearing prepared with a plea for 2 prosecutors and one investigator to handle "special crimes" such as mortgage fraud. After discussion, the court voted 3 to 2 (Self, Hatchell and Hoagland voted aye) to increase the DA's staff by the 2 prosecutors and one investigator. The highlight of the evening had to be hearing John Roach tell Phyllis Cole that it was a "violation of the law" to consider the DA's Hot Check and Drug Forfeiture funds when deliberating his budget.
Two prosecutors addressed the court asking for increased salaries for the District Attorney's staff. After discussion, the court seemed sympathetic and asked Human Resources to prepare some data for the court to act on.
I spoke to the court calling the new budget "regressive" and the "same old thing, but less". I criticized the budget for decreasing services to taxpayers, while allowing overhead to continue to grow. Specifically, I noted that Public Works, Road & Bridge Maintenance, the County Clerk and the courts had their budgets cut, while overhead such as Human Resources, Telecommunications, Information Services and Facilities Management had increased budgets. I singled out the "mother of them all", the "Non-Department Department", whose budget has increased from $4 million in 2006 to $17 million in 2008.
Noticeably absent in the budget were any new approaches to indigent health or mental illness care.
I criticized the Commissioners for once again raising their salaries, calling the raises unjustified and undeserved.
Calling the tax increase "wrong", I told the court that the huge surpluses of cash the county was holding was unfair to the taxpayers, and I called for the return of the surplus to the people to whom it belonged.
Rodney Rhoades, the Budget Director, reported that the Juvenile board had met and approved a budget for the Juvenile Detention that added 12 new detention officers and 2 staff members. The commissioners approved the budget change.
In a 3 to 2 vote (Self, Hoagland and Cole voted aye), the Court killed funding for the Court Reporter in Probate. It was mentioned that Probate would be using an electronic court reporting system.
The commissioners winced as they envisioned Myers Park workers hanging signs while riding in the bucket of a backhoe. They then approved a $24,000 "Gator" for the park.
The final discussion and vote on the 2008 Budget will be at the Commissioners Court meeting set for 9:00 AM on September 11 at the Courthouse on McDonald? Street.
The second and final Public Hearing on the Tax Rate, Budget and Elected Officials Salaries for fiscal 2008 will be held Tuesday evening, September 4, at 7:00 PM in the Central Jury Room of the new Collin County Courthouse.
The new courthouse is north of McKinney? at 2100 Bloomdale Rd.
From U.S. 75:
Northbound: Take the Wilmeth Rd. exit (#42) and continue on the northbound service road until you come to Bloomdale Rd. Turn left (west), go over the bridge and courthouse parking and the main entrance will be on your right.
Take the Weston Rd. exit (#43) and continue south on the service road until you come to Bloomdale Rd. Turn right (west), and courthouse parking and the main entrance will be on your right.
As Collin County Commissioners ponder a possible property tax cut or homeowners exemption, I though it useful to look at how we stack up against other counties in Texas.
Yesterday, The Dallas Morning News published a chart showing the homeowners exemptions granted in several large counties. Harris, Ft. Bend, Brazoria, Dallas, and Travis counties all give homeowners a 20% exemption.
Your Property value is based on the local market, but your elected officials set the exemptions and the tax rate. Texas county tax rates are spread out over a large range. Based on 2005 data, Dallas County had the lowest rate at $.2139 per $100 with the south Texas county of Duval having the dubious distinction of the highest tax rate at $1.1015.
Collin County ranked 4th in the state in having the lowest county taxes. Only Dallas, Sutton and Denton Counties were lower.
Looking at 2006 rates for large and local counties, Collin County ranks third. An owner of a $200,000 homestead paid $352 in Dallas, $464 in Denton, and $490 in Collin County. (Dallas County taxpayers also pay a Hospital District tax, not included in county tax rates.)
|(2006 rates)||Exemption||Rate||TAX ($200K home)|
While we do enjoy a lower tax rate than most other Texas counties, we still pay a higher rate than homeowners in Dallas and Denton.
Could county taxpayers see a rate cut this year?
In Tuesday's budget hearing discussion, the Collin County Commissioners Court discussed several tax cut scenarios.
Judge Keith Self sparked the discussion by noting that according to county budget director Rodney Rhoades, the county could cut its current $.245 property tax rate by a quarter cent to $.2425 per $100 valuation and still maintain a 120 day cash reserve for the next 5 years. Judge Self stated this rate cut would cost the county $4 million in lost revenue.
Commissioner Jaynes pointed out that because of increased valuations, a quarter cent cut in tax rates would still mean a tax increase for the average county taxpayer. Jaynes said that it would take 4 times that amount or a penny tax rate cut before most citizens saw smaller tax bill.
Instead, Commissioner Jaynes proposed a Homestead Exemption of $10-15 thousand for all homeowners. Jaynes argued that a $10,000 exemption would translate into a real $2.20 tax cut for the average taxpayer.
The court instructed Mr. Rhoades to investigate and report on the financial implications of both the homestead exemption and a larger tax rate cut in time for the next public hearing on September 4th.
Much of the discussion in today's county budget hearings centered on Law Enforcement issues.
The DPS Highway Patrol sent a State Trooper to ask the commissioners court to reinstate a clerical position the county has traditionally staffed at the Collin County DPS station.
The DPS trooper explained that in 2006, the clerk entered 13,489 ticket into the county's court system resulting in over $1.5 million in fine revenue to Collin County. He argued that clerk freed the officers from spending time on paperwork resulting in more time on patrol...and more ticket revenue. Commissioners Jaynes, Hatchell and Cole agreed, and the request was approved. Judge Self and Commissioner Hoagland voted against the funding.
The Commissioners voted 4-1 to add 6 jail detention officers to the county jail. The sheriff's office explained that the jail would be adding an additional 74 beds in 2008 and the staffing was needed to handle the increased prisoner load. Commissioner Hoagland again voted "no".
The court also approved adding 2 prosecutors to the DA's office to handle white-collar crime. In another 4-1 vote, only Commissioner Hoagland (Dr. No) voted against the funding.
Deputy Tim Oglivy, the president of the Collin County Deputy Sheriffs Association, testified that while the county has been telling the public that employees were getting a 5% raise, many deputies would only receive a 1% pay increase, because their salaries were "topped out" after 5 years.
Hoagland responded that only those who were on the county's "pay for performance" (PFP) program would see the 5% increase. His statement sparked an exchange with Sheriff Terry Box, who told the court that while all his non-sworn employees would be on the PFP program, he had concerns about the suitability of setting PFP measures on peace officers. Box stated that the law does not allow for any type of quota systems for officers, and that he has been unable to find any successful PFP program in a US law enforcement agency.
Commissioner Hoagland retorted that industry uses PFP, that the county was committed to basing salary increases on performance, not on longevity, and that if any employee was not on PFP that employee would not get another salary increase.
(It might be a good idea for Jerry Hoagland to carefully observe the speed limit for a while.)
The Collin County Commissioners Court has scheduled 2 public hearings to get citizen input into the fiscal 2008 county budget.
9:00 AM Tuesday, August 28
7:00 PM Tuesday, September 4
I'll be there, I hope you will be too.
Last year, most Texans were horrified to read of scandal at the Texas Youth Commission. The newspapers were full of lurid details of sexual and physical abuse and mismanagement in our juvenile detention system.
The TYC had suffered for years from legislative budget cutting and oversight neglect. Budget cuts led to staffing shortages, and lower training levels for officers. This neglect, in part, allowed for an atmosphere where the incarcerated youth were victimized because staff felt powerless to report or stop the abuse.
Of course, after the newspapers started printing the details of oppression and abuse, the State Legislature did find the means to provide the funds to adequately reform and staff the TYC.
Now, by all reports, Collin County runs a model, first-rate juvenile detention facility. I am not implying otherwise. Having said that, I do believe that in its zeal to save money, the 2008 county budget does appear to shortchange its own Juvenile Detention Department.
Collin County's rapid growth brings with it growth in juvenile crime. In response to this increase, the Juvenile Detention Center is to open a new detention pod in 2008 - growing its bed capacity 25% - from 98 to 122. To handle the new inmates, the department requested 12 additional detention officers, and for them, increased training and uniform budgets.
Unfortunately, the proposed 2008 budget allows for none of these requests.
* No additional officers.
* Operating budget cut by $50,000
* Capital budget cut by $17,000
History shows that government neglect will eventually impact the youth in the system. It need not happen here.
I hope that during the budget hearings, the Juvenile Department's budget benefits from a through public discussion of needs and priorities. It would be criminal to allow Collin County's excellent program to begin the slide that led to the downfall of the TYC.
From: Tim Wyatt
Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 4:28 PM
To: Bill Baumbach
Subject: Public Notice
This is a copy of the public notice published in the Dallas Morning News on 8/16/2007, reflecting the actual vote in Commissioners Court on tax revenues. The copy that you have posted on your blog is an uncorrected proof that was posted online inadvertently and replaced this morning with the identical ad that ran in The News on 8/16. Thank you.
Note, I have posted this corrected notice here
The 2008 proposed budget has been released. Links to it, to the notice of Tax Rate, and the Notice of Elected Officials Salaries can be found here and on Collin County's website.
As expected, the tax rate is slated to remain at $.245 per $100 valuation. Because of increased valuations, the average homeowner's taxes will increase by $22.32. Total tax valuations in Collin County increased from last year's $66.4 billion to $73.8 billion this year, and tax dollars collected will increase by 4.22%.
The Commissioners Court proposes to increase Elected Officials salaries by 5%. The entire budget increased by 8.93% to $262.6 million.
Raise Season 2007
Collin County commissioners are hiking their pay again; BILL BAUMBACH of Wylie has an alternative plan
Dallas Morning News
12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, August 9, 2007
Do you remember raise season last year? Under intense political pressure, your county commissioners were forced to give up their re-election bonuses (longevity pay) and their car allowances. Trying to recoup their losses, they voted themselves a 16 percent pay hike.
That pay raise lasted just as long as it took for angry citizens to flood the Commissioners Court with e-mails and phone calls in howls of protest. Within a week, newspapers were printing apologies from chastened commissioners who "saw the light" and promised to freeze their pay. Unfortunately, that promise didn't last but a week, until the commissioners voted themselves a 6 percent raise.
Well citizens, they're at it again! Last week kicked off Raise Season 2007 when the commissioners voted themselves a 5 percent raise. Commissioner Joe Jaynes explained that he thought commissioners shouldn't get a larger raise than other county employees. He then voted for a 5 percent raise for himself, and a 4 percent raise for clerks and other county employees.
Commissioner Jerry Hoagland voted against his raise, but only because he wants to hold out for the "Five County Plan" that would give him an even larger increase.
This "Five County Plan" idea is to take the average commissioners' salary of the five largest counties in Texas, Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant and Travis, then split the difference between that average and what the Collin County commissioners are making. Bingo! You get a 6.5 percent raise that would bring 2008 salaries up from $102,600 to approximately $109,000.
Let's look at those numbers. First, the five counties that Collin County is comparing itself to are huge. Their average 2002 population was almost 2 million, while Collin County is about a third of that. The commissioners in these largest counties all oversee large public hospitals, and many run their own road and bridge districts. Collin County commissioners do neither.
How about cost to the citizen? The total cost of the county judge and commissioners salaries cost Harris County citizens 20 cents a year, but Collin County citizens pay almost six times that much – $1.11 per year. Dallas County Commissioners oversee a budget of $749 million, Collin County $169 million.
I submit that the 5 percent and the "Five County Plan" both miss the main point. The point is that the commissioners take home too much of our tax money already. They are overpaid. In fact, while most other county employees are paid wages in line with the region or lower, our elected officials are all near the top of the scale in the state.
I propose a fairer formula. I believe the commissioners should index their compensation to the four suburban counties closest to us in size – two that are larger, and two smaller. El Paso and Hidalgo are larger – Denton and Fort Bend are smaller. Using the same "Five County" logic, we take the average of those four counties, and then split the difference with the current Collin County scale.
With this new formula, the commissioners would now get paid $91,737, an 8.9% pay cut. The county judge would see his pay cut 8.2 percent to $112,186.
For many years, your Commissioners Court has voted itself raise after raise. They have voted themselves raises that have no basis in fairness or equity.
I think its time the Commissioners Court really acted as conservative stewards of our tax money. They can start by paying themselves a fair, competitive wage of $91,000.
It's time the Commissioners cut their salary. It's time the taxpayers demanded it.
If any commissioner feels he deserves the kind of money they make in Harris County, I'd be happy to help them pack his bags for the move to Houston.
The Collin County Commissioners Court has scheduled 2 public hearings to get citizen input into the fiscal 2008 county budget.
9:00 AM Tuesday, August 28
7:00 PM Tuesday, September 4
I'll be there.
Take politics out of commissioners court raises
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, August 5, 2007
Even with a new county judge, the Collin County Commissioners Court can't seem to handle the issue of elected officials' salaries without creating a mess.
The solution is simple, and we've suggested it before: Find a reasonable benchmark to take politics out of the pay-raise issue.
Commissioner Joe Jaynes recommends tying raises to the amount given to most other county employees. That makes sense – more sense than giving yourself a larger raise than your employees, as the court did again this year.
Last year, commissioners talked about tying it to some percentage of Dallas County's pay for elected officials. That sounded reasonable, until it became clear that the 90 percent benchmark proposed was really a backhanded way of trying to restore longevity pay bonuses that the commissioners had been forced by political pressure to give up.
This year, some commissioners supported a new benchmark tied to the largest five counties in the state.
Indeed, to the extent that looking to other counties' paychecks is useful at all, the county should look at peer counties, not large urban ones. According to the 2007 Salary Survey completed by the Texas Association of Counties, Collin County commissioners make more than every other county commissioner in the state except for those in Harris, Tarrant and Dallas counties. Our county judge's pay is No. 3, just behind Harris and Dallas counties.
Keep in mind, Collin County has the seventh-largest budget among counties. So why should it have the third-highest pay for elected officials?
A more reasonable comparison would be to peer counties, those in the 2000 census with populations between 300,000 and a million people. But those comparisons aren't kind to Collin County: Commissioners make $26,000 more than average and the county judge about $50,000 more than average.
We applaud County Judge Keith Self for refusing a raise for himself, but we're not in favor of cutting elected officials' pay. Tying raises to a reasonable economic indicator and capping it at the percentage increase given other employees would do the trick.
No matter what happens, though, elected officials need to dispense with this notion that they are somehow underpaid. The best players on the Frisco RoughRiders? are "underpaid" compared to the worst player on the Rangers, but those guys aren't allowed to give themselves raises to play some absurd game of catch-up.
McKinney Courier Gazette
Editorial Saturday, August 4, 2007
Most people would love to get a pay raise of $5,000 or more. In today’s economy fraught with layoffs and uncertainty, a few people might take a $5,000 pay cut just to keep their jobs.
And in a time when people are questioning the tax burden, elected officials who decide to give themselves a pay hike are demonstrating a high level of chutzpah.
Collin County commissioners on Tuesday voted to give themselves and most other county officials a 5 percent raise - from $102,260 to $107,373 per year in the commissioners’ case. County Judge Keith Self pledged not to raise his salary during his term, remaining at $135,069 per year. For that, Self is to be congratulated.
Just why the commissioners need the money is uncertain. It seems, somehow, they feel deprived because commissioners in Texas’ five largest counties - Harris, Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant and Travis - make more than they do. Too bad. At least they backed off from the 6.5 percent raise they were originally talking about.
At least the pay-hike issue was discussed in open session, after former commissioner candidate Bill Baumbach threatened to get the attorney general involved in an open records dispute when it looked as if the commissioners were going to mull the issue in closed session.
This action by commissioners is bad timing, though they are under budget deadlines. They are about to ask voters to finance more than $200 million in bonds for much-needed roads and parks facilities. By using taxpayer money to give themselves an extra $5,000 per year, they risk a backlash from residents tired of what they consider wasteful spending. The commissioners would be wise to follow Self’s lead and freeze their salaries for the remainder of the term. Perhaps they could vote a pay hike effective after the next election. Or maybe they could put it on the ballot as a referendum to see if the voters want to raise their salaries. It’s usually the bosses who decide whether to increase an employee’s salary, and the voters are the commissioners’ bosses.
Commissioners should stop trying to satisfy their own ego by comparing their pay to that of larger counties and start concerning themselves more with their constituents’ interests. If not, they risk deepening a feeling that many people have that the commissioners is just a club of good ol’ boys (and girl).