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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.


 

Bond issues, tax reductions and increased valuations

Everyone is having a bond election in November, or so it seems, and pretty much all of our taxing entities are touting decreases in the tax rate. Let’s get real. If, for instance a taxing entity is reducing the tax rate by 10 0r 15 cents per $100 valuation, the savings seen by taxpayers is probably negligible at best. But it is intended to make taxpayers feel all warm and cozy for a few minutes anyhow. Then boom, along comes the dreaded notice from the appraisal district that sends most property owners into a rare form of shell shock. It is then that people get enraged when they hear the fuzzy comments of politicians telling them all about how they are staying within their budgets and not raising taxes or perhaps giving them that little stipend reduction. Come on, don’t insult the intelligence of the average homeowner. It is easy to keep from raising taxes when you are getting millions extra from increased valuations.

While there are no easy answers to this dilemma, maybe fuzzy tax reductions aren’t the answer. For instance, sometimes politicians go overboard when they randomly cut expenses only to find out later in the year that the funds they cut during the budgeting process have to be added after all and that affects the emergency funds set aside for real emergencies such as the unprecedented rise in utilities and gasoline costs that are currently taking bite after bite out of personal, business, and government budgets.

Let’s say a public official anticipates needing some computer equipment because the equipment at hand is on its last legs and being held together by a wish, a prayer and a rubber band. So, they put this expenditure in their proposed budget and along comes some city or county official who decides “nah, that can wait until next year” and out the request goes. So, three months into the new budget year, the system shuts down totally because the old computers just couldn’t handle the load and the rubber band broke. So, the division head goes back before the officials making the decision and asks for the same computer equipment he or she originally sought. As is the general rule, the powers that be will have to mull over the request (to look concerned and efficient) and in the meantime employees are dealing with a backlog of paperwork that can’t be inputted into the now kapoot computer system. So, a week or so passes and the powers that be reluctantly approve the request and low and behold by this time the new computer system is going to cost 25 or 30 percent more and the overtime is going to accumulate for now totally stressed employees that are going to have to do double time to get the job done once the new systems are approved, a purchase order is issued and the items are finally delivered. Now come on, did anyone save one red cent? No.

Common sense, not feel good fuzzy tokens should prevail when budgeting is considered. It may look good on paper, but it doesn’t always add up at years’ end when the final tally of dollars actually spent is tabulated.

Sometimes you just can’t help but wonder if all citizens and taxpayers are considered to have a brain comparable in size to a cricket or if it is the governing bodies that lack the gray matter.

Anyhow, look for a lot of warm and fuzzy feeling comments in the next few weeks as virtually every taxing entity in the county gets ready to “sell” bond issues to the voting public.

To be totally fair, you can’t really blame these folks, it is a tradition and they are faced constantly with providing vital services as well as a lot of not really needed, but expected and demanded “extras.” We’ve all come to expect city, county, state and federal governments to provide amenities that once were luxuries and provided by donations and fund raisers rather than by tax dollars.

We want pristine parks, Olympic style swimming pools, libraries with every conceivable book and all the latest technology. We demand a strong law enforcement and fire department presence, as well as lots of ambulances, and smooth roadways. Even if we build our homes in new subdivisions that were once nothing more than alligator retention ponds, we want our government officials to change the course of the river and assure us that not one ounce of water will trickle into our homes even during the unpredictable monsoon rains that hit periodically in the Gulf Coast area.

We want schools that educate our children from age three to whenever. In other words, we want the public school system to take over the responsibilities of parenthood shortly after the children are housebroken. Some expect teachers to teach in several languages; we want school sports facilities that rival the NFL or the NBA.

And, we expect animal control to take care of those pesky deer, carnivorous alligators, irritating squirrels, dangerous bats, roaming coyotes and smelly skunks, not to mention hungry mosquitoes. Remember building those homes on the alligator retention ponds — where did you expect those poor native inhabitants to go? But, anyhow, we’ve become a society of “provide for us” kind of people and until times get tough we really don’t worry about increasing property values and the taxes they glean from our take home pay.

So, when the speeches begin this year in preparation for the many bond issues that will be on the ballot just remember that we, as citizens and taxpayers, probably are getting exactly what we asked for.

 

Contact skinnerc1@ev1.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006