@KingWm

Fayette County, Texas - Commissioners Court 9/14/2023

Max Tax Increase (4.7%) Approved By 3/2 Vote

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There have been no changes to the 2024 budget, and it was adopted today by a 3/2 over the objections of the Court’s two [apparent] fiscal conservatives.  Le sigh…  They increased the property tax rates as much as they could this year (4.7%) and increased spending by 8.9%.  There were many public comments related to increased spending and dwindling fund balances and members of the Court finally responded.  Also, don’t miss my response to being removed from Commissioners Court on 8/24, the comparison of the libertarian, liberal and conservative perspectives, it’s Constitution Week in Fayette County and watch a bonus video explanation of tax rates.

On Influencing Budget Policy Effectively

The best way to influence budget policy meaningfully is to be present in Court and ready to comment in real time as policy is presented and formed.  Reading about something in a newspaper and then reacting at the next meeting is much less effective because often many actions have been taken already that make reversing course more difficult.  The budget had to be approved today and so substantive changes were impossible.  The final public hearings are mostly for wailing and grinding of the teeth.  Next year, be ready by May and participate in Court regularly to shape public policy more effectively.

Quotes of the day

Judge Mueller:

“…our [tax] rate is going down…” [emphasis added by the Judge]

Commissioner Brossmann [about a minute later]:

“I move we approve the motion that the property tax rate be increased by… effectively a 4.7% increase in the tax rate…”

On Effective Tax Rates

[Don’t let them confuse you with the lower tax rate argument.  Click here to see a video I made illustrating how the tax rate works.]

They keep claiming that the tax rate is going down.  What they are referring to is the adopted tax rate which includes the increased property values.  If you increase property values by 17% (2023 taxable value of $4,985,082,567 divided by 2022 total taxable value of $4,255,812,753) and only reduce the tax rate by 7% (2023 tax rate of 0.41196 divided by the 2022 tax rate of 0.44219), then you have not lowered the tax rate enough to compensate for the increase in property values, and so the effective tax rate has gone up (everyone is paying more in taxes).

Indeed, the adopted rate is higher than the no new revenue rate.  This year’s no new revenue rate (at this year’s valuations) is equivalent to last year’s adopted rate (at last year’s valuations).

Of the $1.3 million in new property tax revenue for 2024, $0.6 million is from new property added to the rolls (a higher than normal number), which means the remaining $0.7 million is a tax increase on existing property.

On Inflation and Property Values

As a side note, inflation is eating away the value of your dollars, not increasing the value of your property.  Property values may be going up some due to growth, but the largest portion of the increase is due to fractional reserve lending, easy monetary policy and inflation.

Audio Recording

Quicklinks - Clickable Timestamps

This is my response to the shenanigans of 8/24.  Find my prepared speech posted below (click here).

What Next?

Be ready for the next budget year in April or May of 2024.

My Speech

Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what sort of government the delegates had created.  His answer was, “A republic, if you can keep it.”  Clearly, what Franklin was referring to was whether the citizenry could stay informed and hold their government accountable to the law.

Federalist No. 51 (of the Federalist Papers) says, “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government”.  The entire Declaration of Independence is about holding government accountable to the people.

The founders agreed that in order for our form of self-government to be successful, the citizenry must be informed and involved.  Armed with information, through participation and dialogue, we exert influence over public policy.  It is more than a right, it is every citizen’s duty to be involved, stay informed and hold government accountable.

A couple years ago, I realized I could no longer neglect my duty and so I began participating more intimately.  I have been studying state law, county ordinances, county procedures and customs, and in general, observing the Court for over two years now.  For 15 months, I have been posting CC meeting audio on my website along with analysis and opinion.  I do this to educate the public and get them involved.  My only compensation is better government.  And we deserve good government.  If more citizens participated, then perhaps many of the issues our country struggles with would quickly be put in good order.

That citizens should be involved in the decision making process is not just a founding principle, it’s absolutely imperative.  According to the Texas Association of Counties, “people are entitled to information about governmental action” and “transparency is furthered by allowing the public to have access to governmental decision making”.  Furthermore, “the purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to open the decision-making process to the public”.

It is not a privilege for a member of the public to speak in court, but rather an entitlement provided by law.  Of course, rules for decorum apply but it’s important to note that members of the Court are governed by the same rules.  The quest for good government obligates me to critique the Court, and I quote, “including criticism of any act, omission, policy, procedure, program or service.”

The Open Meetings Act also prevents county business from being discussed with two or more members of the court unless it is in a public meeting.  A member of the Court may not talk to, text, email or otherwise discuss county business with more than one other member of the Court at any time, without violating the Open Meetings Act.  So, if “matters are discussed behind closed doors”, as has been suggested many times in here, and they are not discussed in open meetings, then not only can the public not participate, but neither can other members of the Court!  How can any of us make informed decisions without ample open public discussion?

Finally, it saddens me the spectacle that was made of CC on 8/24.  As the meeting was about to adjourn, a member of this court was given the floor for comments.  After a few minutes of valid, on-topic budget policy defense, that member then diverted from the agenda to engage in a lengthy personal attack on a member of the public.  Personal attacks are never in order.

The presiding officer not only failed to end the personal attack and bring the meeting to order, but then engaged in a separate personal attack, also on matters unrelated to the agenda.  Your own rules prevent the use of CC as a public forum for the demeaning of any individual or group.  I never attacked anyone personally and I never demeaned anyone.  This Court first breached decorum, but I paid the price, and my rights were violated as I was escorted out in violation of all that is civil and just.  What happened to me was simply…un-American.

Was it a coordinated stunt?  Who knows, but that type of behavior from this Court would certainly discourage future citizen participation and that cannot be tolerated.  It was a clear message to me and those who happen to agree with me, including some county employees and elected officials.  It was NOT an example of good government.  This court abused its authority and that must never happen again.