Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Curious Public Hearing on the Budget

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
Source: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Richardson City Council held a public hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 and the proposed tax rate of $0.63516 per $100 valuation.

Members of the public got their five minutes in the spotlight to come before the council and find fault. You know the drill. Taxes are too high. You're spending too much. You're spending on the wrong things. You're loading up our children with an unbearable burden of debt. You're corrupt. You're stupid. You're not listening to us (that is, to me).

After the jump, the curious turn that Monday's public hearing took.

There was one speaker. One. That's right. And she said that she has a friend who is considering buying a rent home and he's concerned about what the taxes are going to be. Are those going to be going up?

The answer? No.

That was it. One speaker. No complaints. Curious, right? I just might have to rethink my impression that there are knee-jerk malcontents in Richardson who complain about everything (yours truly excepted). Congratulations to the Richardson City Council for putting together a balanced budget with no tax rate increase, all of which miraculously failed to provoke any public opposition.

Famous last words: there's a second public hearing scheduled for August 27.


mccalpin said...

The woman who did speak was indeed there because of her friend, but she mistakenly thought that the City was raising the tax rate. I spoke to her before the meeting started and pointed out that the tax rate was staying the same, so the question was really "Is the appraisal going up?" You can tell she understood this by seeing her actual statements at the meeting.

Note that when the meeting ended, Director of Finance Kent Pfeil went over to her to answer any specific questions, and City Manager Dan Johnson stopped by. This is a huge advantage to actually attending the meetings - you can ask people questions face-to-face, and get an answer, if not then, then the next day.


mccalpin said...

Oh, Mark, note that the public hearing on August 27th is only for the tax rate, not the budget. If people want to talk on the budget, the mayor might ask them to do it in the Visitors Section instead.

Since the tax rate is not changing, I don't know if anyone will show up to say anything about it.

This is the schedule:
Required hearings on tax rate – Aug. 20 & 27
Required hearing on budget – Aug. 20
Adoption action on budget set for Monday, September 10


Mark Steger said...

Curiouser and curiouser.

mccalpin said...

I am not sure what you meant by this, but so that everyone knows...

The Texas Local Government Code, Section 102.006, requires a (one) public hearing on the budget, and provides that the budget be made available at least 15 days prior to the hearing.

This budget has been available online for some time at:

On the other hand, if the proposed tax rate is increased or if the proposed tax rate exceeds the effective tax rate (long story), then the City must hold two public hearings. See the Texas Tax Code
26.05(d), 26.06, and 26.065.

The reason that the woman attended the public hearing this week was because she thought that the tax rate was being increased, but it was just that the proposed tax rate (which is the same as last year) is higher than the effective tax rate, because of the not-obvious way that the State computes such things.

Maybe this will make a good RumorCheck Q&A question... ;-)


Mark Steger said...

Bill, good point. Although the tax rate is not changing, total tax revenues will increase 0.36% under the city's proposal. It's there in the notice for the public hearings.

I'm not sure if the city has explained the sources of the increased tax revenues -- whether it's increased appraisal values due to inflation or increased appraisal values due to development or other improvements, or something else.

mccalpin said...

See the budget presentation at

Slide 41 shows that the increase in the tax rolls is almost completely due to increase in commercial property appraisals. Residential appraisals (netting the two counties together) went down 0.9%.

Slide 32 shows that the increases in appraised values were almost totally in Collin County.

Slide 42 shows that residential appraisals as a percentage of total appraised property values slide 2 percentage points from 48.1% to 46.1%. Note that commercial property appraisals now exceeds residential property appraisals.

This reflects on the City's long-term strategy of getting and keeping businesses here, since the more tax that businesses pay, the less tax homeowners have to pay...