Monthly Archives: April 2022

Guaranteed Income Plan Is Illegal In Texas – Here’s How To Do It Right

By Bill Oakey – April 20, 2022, Updated April 22, 2022

The City Council wants to start free money giveaways to families, to the tune of $1,000 per month???

I clearly remember an issue that came up back in the late 1980’s. The City wanted to place an item on the ballot to approve bonds for energy conservation programs. Families who qualified would get a “home energy audit.” Then a contractor would fix up their home to make it more energy efficient.

The City Council was all set to put this initiative on the ballot, along with other bonds to be considered. But it ran into a legal roadblock. Then Attorney General Jim Maddox issued an opinion that State law does not allow cities to give away money or “things of value.” Programs such as this can be funded with voluntary payments that customers add to their utility bills, or with State or Federal funds. But local taxpayer money cannot legally be used.

Here is the relevant citation in The Texas Constitution, Article III, Sec. 52:

Sec. 52. COUNTIES, CITIES, TOWNS OR OTHER POLITICAL CORPORATIONS OR SUBDIVISIONS; LENDING CREDIT; GRANTS. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, the Legislature shall have no power to authorize any county, city, town or other political corporation or subdivision of the State to lend its credit or to grant public money or thing of value in aid of, or to any individual, association or corporation whatsoever, or to become a stockholder in such corpora- tion, association or company.

If providing free energy efficiency upgrades to homes is not allowed under State law, then surely giving away bundles of taxpayers’ cash could not be legal! 

I can just imagine people going wild in the streets, as a parade of official City of Austin vehicles with “Free Money” logos on them depart City Hall. This extravaganza would follow a rousing send off speech by Mayor Steve Adler. Or better yet, why not turn the program over to Capital Metro and Project Connect? They could call it the Gravy Train, and operate it along the Green Line. Maybe they could dig tunnels under people’s homes, and deliver the free money right to their bedsides or their kitchen tables!

The concept of a guaranteed income program is upside down and backwards. On its face, it acknowledges that our economic system is out of whack. Workers should be paid a living wage on the front end of the process. Asking taxpayers to fix a broken system by applying a bandaid to the back end only makes the problem worse. It adds layers of administrative cost to the government. And it saps resources from other essential programs.

Here’s How to Fix the Problem

Austin has maintained a culture of low wages, dating back to at least the 1970’s, when we were a smaller college town. Our biggest employers then were U.T. and State government agencies. Because Austin was such a desirable place to live, private employers got by with paying pitifully low wages. That embedded culture still persists to this day for many jobs on the lower rungs of the pay scale.

It is high time for the City Council, the local chambers of commerce and the independent business associations to come together and address the problem. Start by researching how Austin wages compare with other cities. Find out what, if any, legitimate barriers exist that prevent Austin employers from paying better wages. Then fix those problems. Break down those barriers.

But don’t risk costly litigation, or swift action by Ken Paxton and other State Republicans to block the guaranteed income program. Please, City Council – Step up to the plate and do it right!

Crazy Requirements From the Contractor The City Wants To Partner With!

If the City Council approves the guaranteed income pilot program, they will contract it out to UpTogether, a non-profit that has done it in several other cities. Wait till you see the crazy requirements that San Antonio families are hit with if they want to apply! Here are just two eye-popping examples:

1. Link all of your bank and financial accounts to UpTogether, so they can spy on every dollar that you spend.

2. Form a group of between 4 and 8 people in order to join. This ensures that UpTogether can expand exponentially, and lasso an ever-increasing stream of taxpayer dollars, flowing into their organization.

You can read the full details of the San Antonio program here.

A Closing Poem

Just as we’re being taxed out of our socks
Here comes the opening of Pandora’s Box
The City’s new plan to come after your money
Isn’t even legal, and you won’t like it, honey!

They call it guaranteed annual income
It’s crazy, wacky, screwball and then some
Austin should raise the minimum wage
And do it voluntarily, in more than one stage

Too often our leaders don’t think things through
When fixing a problem isn’t easy to do
But surely the City can find a better option
Than rushing a bad plan to final adoption

Giving away money with no strings attached
Is like expecting all eggs to be successfully hatched
The guaranteed income sounds simple on the surface
But it must serve a legal community purpose

Even if the City could find such a loophole
This is Pandora’s Box and a budgetary sinkhole
The non-profit partner the City picked to administer
Has creepy requirements that look downright sinister

Here’s hoping the City will come to their senses
Before taxpayers rise up and mount their defenses
Remember one thing, dear sirs and my dear
This is a City Council election year!

Yikes! The New Property Tax Appraisals Are Out!

By Bill Oakey – April 15, 2022

The City of Austin’s relentless march to obliterate all long term residents and replace us with the ultra-rich took another giant leap this morning. The Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD) has posted the new property tax appraisals on their website. If you just placed an order for a new Tesla, and you registered for the VIP presale tickets for the Zilker Botanical Gardens Ion Art Night at $400 per couple, plus fees, plus taxes, then you can skip this blog piece. But if you have lived in Austin most of your life, and you are responsible for helping to create our high quality of life, then keep reading. You still matter to tens of thousands of your neighbors and friends. You still have a right to belong in the city that you helped build, and you supported with your taxes.

To look up your new tax appraisal, go to this link, and enter you name or your property address. Scroll down to the bottom, and click on “Values.” The line labeled “Market” is your total appraisal. The “Net Appraisal” is the adjusted amount, after any homestead exemptions and the 10% annual appraisal cap. Keep in mind that if your total appraisal is reduced by the annual cap, then that higher amount will stay in your account, and you’ll get 10% increases every year until you reach the total.

Check out the helpful, but frightening news story from KXAN below. Investors around the world are salivating over the easy money they can make by gouging Austin renters, and toppling all of our neighborhoods. But we have a tough spirit, and we vote in large numbers. Enjoy this nice spring day, while you still can!

Travis Co. Appraisal District says its market values have been ‘too low.’ What does that mean for your notice?

Updated:

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD) said appraisal notices for the year are on their way to homeowners. Spoiler alert: Values are up. Way up.

TCAD said according to this year’s values, the 2022 median market value for a residential property in Travis County is $632,208.

KXAN has previously reported

According to TCAD, the median home value was $413,403 in 2021 and $354,622 in 2020.

“In some areas, we’re looking at increases in market value of almost 40 to 50%. In some places, it may even be higher,” said Marya Crigler, Travis Central Appraisal District chief appraiser.

It’s what worries Dave W. Lofton III, who’s seen his value increase, especially over the last few years.

“My house, it hasn’t changed, it’s been the same,” he said. “They done built all these houses all around me, okay, they value my house on these houses that’s around me.”

In a press release on Thursday, the agency also said its market values “in recent years have been too low, particularly in areas of western Travis County.” That’s according to a review by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, which is done every two years, said TCAD.

The comptroller’s office told KXAN its study takes a look at a sample of property values within school districts. It sends that data back to the Texas Education Agency to help determine school funding.

While it said the study doesn’t have a direct impact on TCAD’s home market values, TCAD said it shows it “failed” to value properties at 100% of the market rate, as required by law, according to TCAD spokesperson Cynthia Martinez.

Martinez said it’s part of the reason why property owners’ increases might be higher than they expected, because TCAD has been too low the last couple years.

“The test that we had the last two years indicated that we were probably not being as aggressive in increasing the values as we should have been,” Crigler said.

She said the discrepancy comes from the data they have access to.

“We do have some limitations in the information that is available to the appraisal district. The state will have some different resources that will lead — lend their analysis to be slightly different than ours,” Crigler said.

But she said the biggest driving factor in increased market values is supply and demand. 

“There’s a lot of demand for housing, but we have had a shortage of supply of housing,” she said.

Crigler also posted a message to homeowners, stating:

“These increases may seem intimidating. But it is important for property owners to understand that the appraisal district does not set local budgets or tax rates. Your city, county, and school district are among the taxing entities that determine how much money needs to be brought in every year by property taxes. Your taxable value helps determine what portion of that total you have to pay compared to your neighbors.”

But TCAD’s market values are what those taxing entities use in setting those rates, and the majority of folks will see property taxes go up, as we’ve seen in previous years.

Even with a homestead exemption, which caps his property tax increase at 10%, Lofton is worried he’ll be taxed out of his neighborhood of more than 40 years.

To see the full KXAN News story, click here.

Final Note: If you really want to go to the Zilker Gardens Ion Art Night, you can register here, non-VIP, for $80 per couple, plus fees, plus taxes. But read the fine print. If the event is canceled for any reason beyond their control, there are NO REFUNDS! Your money will be kept as a donation to support “their mission.”

You can thank our friendly Parks and Recreation Dept. for these high priced, glitzy events and outlandish policies. What about those wonderful free spring Zilker Garden Festivals that we enjoyed for so many years? The ones where local organizations were in charge, and plants were sold to benefit non-profit groups? Those days at Zilker Gardens are gone forever, unless we can elect City Council members who care about all of our communities, and the diverse income groups who live in those communities.