Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jail costs, new criminal court driving Travis County tax hikes

From news reports I've seen, most jurisdictions in the state currently contemplating property tax increases are doing so to pay for pretrial detention at overcrowded jails and staffing overbuilt detention centers. Here in Austin, I've already discussed how the city budget has become bloated with public safety costs, and today the Statesman brings word that Travis County, too, will likely raise taxes to pay for mostly criminal justice related expenses:
The increase would pay mainly for a new county criminal court, increased fuel costs, a 3 percent pay raise for most county employees and 31 corrections officers to staff a new detention building at the Del Valle Correctional Complex.
Anti-tax activists in Texas for years have focused their ire on the "Robin Hood" school finance scheme and rising property taxes at public schools. But as far as I can tell, jails and other criminal justice-related expenses are driving local tax hikes in most Texas counties which have announced them.

At a time when 37% of arrests by Austin PD are optional (under state law, officers could use their discretion to write tickets for most of these offenders if top brass and local DAs would approve it), raising taxes to pay for staffing an overcrowded jail strikes me as a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

Where are all the anti-tax agitators when you need them? In my hometown of Tyler, the no-new-taxes crowd gets the connection, but clearly Austin, Lubbock and other jurisdictions remain willing to jack up property taxes ad infinitum to pay for jail costs, even when they could pursue other options.


Anonymous said...

in an age of , our jobs being farmed out to the other country's, who don't give a hoot about this country;and want put a dime back into our communities , our schools , nor our businesses,nor our churches , and governments.why in fire hell are you politicians, asking us to pay for something that won't avail the consumer, and tax payer nothing;and i mean nothing!!!!!!!!!!!

Ron in Houston said...

I couldn't believe after losing a bond election for a new jail, that Harris County commissioners are trying to build one anyway.

Yes, let's take money away from schools and infrastructure so that we can incarcerate more non-violent offenders.

Anonymous said...

I think this article as well as the referenced Statesman article are quite misleading.

So Travis County is reportedly going to try to inflict a property "tax hike" on us to pay for a new jail and related criminal justice expenses.

But the Statesman article implies the way Travis County is imposing this "tax hike" is by...

proposing a "$5 property tax decrease"


by the county proposing a "tax RATE is actually about 3 percent lower than the previous year's."

The tax LEVY and the tax RATE are two different things.

The County must have been in cahoots with the the Travis County Central Appraisal District's exhorbitant increased property value appraisals. The County must KNOW how they can get an "a $12 increase for an average-value home" for themselves via bogus increased appraisal values while at the same time make it appear to the public that Travis County is actually lowering the tax rate.

What a freakin' ripoff scam.

There will be a citizens protest at the
Travis County Appraisal District Office at
8314 Cross Park Drive (near IH 35 and Hwy 290 East
at Noon
on Friday, August 1st

put on by the Taxpayers for Don Zimmerman for Travis County Tax Assessor Collector (call 5778842 for more info).

The County raising more revenue via property taxes is based on sleight of hand and knowing and making the property tax appraisals go up. That is F R A U D !!!

Anonymous said...

7:41, you are angry with the wrong agency and the wrong level of government. If Travis County's appraisal district doesn't return property values that are high enough, the State Comptroller can override the appraisal district. Ultimately, the State tells the districts how much money they have to raise, and will punish the district and the schools if the appraisers don't hit that mark. What they do with their taxpayers' money--now that's something you can go after the county or city for.

Anonymous said...

But shouldn't we be looking at the reason why they want the new jail?

I think the question to the county, and those running it should be, Why do we need it?

if the answer is to house the low level criminals that would better serve the population by being under supervision, and contributing to the tax base, then I believe that members of the community should be screaming at them for attempting such a misguided folly! if the purpose it to house criminals that could be under supervision in the population, and contribute back into the community, then why is it that they are being locked up? Drug offenses, petty theft, DUI, some sex offenses can all be better managed through probation departments, while allowing the offenders to maintain a job, pay their taxes, and help house the truly hardcore criminals in the older, paid for jails.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't believe...

Sure you can.

Anonymous said...

"If Travis County's appraisal district doesn't return property values that are high enough, the State Comptroller can override the appraisal district. Ultimately, the State tells the districts how much money they have to raise, and will punish the district and the schools if the appraisers don't hit that mark."

But what is the historical record of the Comptroller (the State) actually punishing school districts. The school district folk go have hearings at the Comptroller and the Comptroller to my knowledge almost always decides in favor of the school district. The Comptroller does not and legally cannot punish county appraisal districts, though, as you say, there is this de facto "rule" they must follow to make the appraisals high enough so that their school districts won't lose state funding.

There is something the Comptroller facilitates called "binding arbittration" for individual property owner protests, but to my knowledge that is an objective process and the Comptroller only facilitates finding and outside arbitrator and the arbitration process. Would have do see proof that this arbitration process functions in a way similar to the way the "Comptroller ratio study" functions.

But in the Grits article we responded to, we are not talking about state's proportion of funding to school districts, we are talking about Travis County doing their appraisals fraudulently high so Travis County can have enough money to cover their budget, their budget for a new jail that they ought to all just lock themselves in permanently for their rip-off the citizen antics.

Anonymous said...

Travis County has not put out honest accurate property tax appraisals in at least 20 years. They do not have the data that would at least make it possible for them to put out honest appraisals, if they even wanted to.

But now we see them blantantly show us they do not even want to or intend to give us honest accurate appraisals.

The honest way to increase property tax revenue is through the TAX RATE, not the sneaky method of increased "fair market value" appraisals.

Suggestions for what makes sense money wise for the county and criminal justice wise for the accused are not allowed.

The county rules. They can do what they want and that includes raising crooked revenue for crooked schemes.

Anonymous said...

Texas counties frequently base appraised value on what they thing the owner can afford to pay without going bankrupt or into forclousre.

I've never seen maps showing appraised value compared to actual sales of homes and businesses. Of course to publish such a thing would reveal that they don't really know what they're doing.

Appraisals have very little to do with the value of a home or anything associated with fairness.

Then to confuse anyone with an IQ under 90, they start talking about the tax rate. You will seldom see the appraised value and the tax rate in the same sentence because that might reveal their good ole boy methods.

I don't mind paying my fair share, I do mind having the entire real estate tax system hidden from view.

Anonymous said...

The Travis County criminal justice system is a failed system.

The Travis County real estate appraisal and taxation system is a failed system.

We cannot and do not have honest accurate appraisal primarily because Texas does not mandate that sellers reveal sales prices to the government. That is a good thing. (Another big reason for never possible accurate appraisals is the false Federal Reserve banking system.)

Since we cannot have accurate appraisals, the government must find a way to never doing appraisals again. Set one valuation and from then on out - Don't mess with Texans.

In criminal justice matters and in county finance and budgetary matters, we in Travis County have continually taken giant steps in the wrong direction - more and more big government control of the citizens.

DeathBreath said...

If you stopped arresting people for drug possession it might help unclog the system. But, this would involve legalization. Those who profit the most, law enforcement with their bloated budgets and drug cartels, stand to lose the most. Crime pays! Yes, the oink oinks are getting fed well!