More to Speak Up About Austin Tea Party

From: Dean W.
Sent on: Friday, October 5, 2012 12:59 PM


Pressley: Austinites, vote down onslaught of new taxes

Laura Pressley, local contributor

Updated: 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012

Published: 6:47 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012

Much debate has arisen regarding how Austin has become incredibly unaffordable over the past decade. With the new 2012 tax increases and ballot propositions on deck for voters in November, there is no relief in sight.

According to the Texas Bond Review Board, Austin is $5 billion in debt due to bonds. Over half the debt has payoff dates from 2030 to 2042. This is shocking. We have a fiduciary duty to put the brakes on increasing our debt and taxes and vote against most of the propositions on November's ballot, including the outrageous Central Health medical school tax.

Many tax increases slowly creep up on us and are implemented without our knowledge or consent.

Citizens disagreed with 2012 tax increases and asked for budget cuts and reductions in spending. On Tuesday, the City Council approved a $3.1 billion budget that includes a rise in the city's property tax — from 48.11 cents per $100 of property value to 50.29 cents.

Our elected representatives supported tax increases regardless of public outcry.

Here is the impact on owning a $250,000 home:

■ Austin Energy — Increase of $275 per year.

■ Water utility — Increase of $175 per year.

■ Toll roads — Increase of $275 per year (for daily travel).

■ Austin property tax — Increase of $60 per year.

■ Travis County property taxes — Increase of $35 per year.

These total over $800 per year more in taxes. This is huge, especially when a report from Community Action Network exposed that 40 percent of Austinites are struggling to make ends meet.

In November, voters will have their chance to vote against the incessant onslaught of rising taxes.

On the ballot will be a proposed $385 million in bonded indebtedness. Municipal bonds increase debt and increase property taxes. Austin has $5 billion in bond debt with principal and interest payments scheduled through 2042.

A well-guarded fact at City Hall is that we have over $355 million in unspent bond money that voters approved in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2010. $62 million of unspent funds are over 12 years old. If the city had spent the $355 million we previously approved, would voters see the need for the additional $385 million? I suspect not.

On the November 2012 ballot, the new $385 million in bonds are broken into seven propositions relating to transportation, parks, low-income housing, public safety, libraries, open space, drainage, and health and human services. The city is quick to increase our debt and taxes, but not so quick at finishing projects we approve. Do we trust the city to not mismanage another $385 million?

Central Texas Health Care District proposes to raise taxes from 7 to 12 cents per $100 of property valuation to raise $54 million per year for a local contribution to a University of Texas medical school and teaching hospital. This is a 70 percent rise in tax rates for the Central Health district and translates to $125 per year more in taxes.

The proposed medical school and hospital will not generate enough operating income, so taxpayers are being asked to pick up the tab. The reason we are told we need this enormous tax increase is to provide health care to the poor.

Anyone can see there are more cost-effective methods for delivering health care, and those solutions don't require building a medical school and new hospital. This is a big boondoggle, and taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill.

We need to stop pumping our dollars into wasteful government and taxpayer-subsidized economic models. Travis County voters, it's simple; take the taxpayer out of the equation and kill this 70 percent tax increase.

Also proposed is a plan to provide civil service protection for all city employees. Cost: $30 million to $80 million per year.

Aggregated over the next 5 years, these spending propositions will cost taxpayers $1 billion and lock us into higher debt.

Today, over 40 percent of Austinites cannot make ends meet; we are becoming less affordable every year, and minorities are leaving in droves. Many of us are furious at these fiscally irresponsible plans for more tax increases.

It's up to us; vote these propositions down. We have to prioritize, tighten our belts, and stop borrowing from our children. Enough is enough.

Pressley has a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Texas and ran for a seat on the Austin City Council in the May elections.

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