Houston City Tax News

   

 

Texas just had to be the first state to start its own gold depository

Following what officials described as a complicated, two-year long development process, Texas is about to become the first state in the union to have its very own gold bullion depository. 

Austin-based Lone Star Tangible Assets, a company that moves and stores gold and other precious metals, was chosen from among six companies for a five-year contract with two one-year extension options, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar's office announced Wednesday.

The company is slated to start taking deposits into its existing Austin vaults starting early next year. It has plans to build a new facility specifically for the state. 

PUBLICITE

The move comes as investors, on the advice of TV and radio pundits, buy up gold as a way of protecting themselves against the volatility of the stock market or other types of investments. And, online trading has made it easier for the average person to buy and sell precious metals.

Since the early 2000s, gold prices have increased almost fivefold, from about $270 an ounce to roughly $1,250, according to Bloomberg data.

But before you start picturing a Scrooge McDuck-style swimming pool full of coins tucked away in Austin somewhere, here’s what you should know about how the Texas Bullion Depository will actually work:

So how much are taxpayers paying for this?

Well, they’re not really, officials said.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in 2015 tasking the comptroller’s office with establishing the nation’s first ever state-administered bullion depository. But the Legislature didn’t appropriate any extra money for it. 

So, after working out the kinks last year, Hegar's office requested proposalsfrom contractors to operate a fully insured gold depository.

Lone Star Tangible Assets already runs a couple of websites that allow people to buy and sell gold. They also already have vault space in Austin that meets high security specifications, Hegar said, so the Texas Bullion Depository should be able to start taking deposits in January.

The company is looking for another site in the “greater Austin area” to build a separate depository and vault that’s expected to open in December 2018.

The timing works out, LSTA’s chairman, Matthew Ferris, said in prepared statements, because "this was an investment we were already planning to make.” He wouldn’t say how much it plans to spend on the new facility.

The state and the company will share revenue, said Tom Smelker, the state’s director of Treasury Operations and the depository’s new administrator. So, the state could make money if enough people pay fees to store their precious metals at the depository. But most of it would likely go back into running the depository, like hiring extra administrative staff.

But the company, he said, is taking on the business risk.

What exactly is a bullion depository, anyway? And what will it look like?

Basically, Smelker said, it’s a “safe and secure vault facility where citizens and businesses can safely store metal assets.”

Most are privately run by big banks that have clients with a lot of assets — only a small portion of which are in gold. And most of those are in and around New York.

Smelker said the Texas depository will be able to accept several precious metals, including gold silver, platinum, rhodium and palladium. 

While he couldn’t say exactly how the Texas depository vault will be structured, he said in his research he was surprised by how little space millions of dollars’ worth of gold actually takes up.

“It’s expensive to build and operate vaults,” he said, so silver, which is less valuable by weight, “is often not in the vault, strangely enough.”

He’d seen vault designs where the pallets of silver are stacked high surrounding a gold vault because it’s an additional heavy, physical layer between would-be thieves and gold.

LSTA said it plans to find a 35,000- to 75,000-square-foot site for its new depository.

Who decided Texas needed its own, state-run facility to keep gold? And why?

At the time, Abbott said the aim of the legislation creating the depository was to “repatriate $1 billion of gold bullion from the Federal Reserve in New York to Texas.”

But the state itself holds almost no gold. The Texas Tribune reported that $1 billion figure referred to the University of Texas Investment Management Co.’s gold bullion holdings — now at $861.4 million — which are currently at HSBC Bank in New York.

UTIMCO is a nonprofit corporation that manages the assets of the UT system, and the gold is only a part of a much larger portfolio.

Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a UT spokeswoman, wrote in an email that “UTIMCO will consider” moving its gold to Texas if the state depository is a “robust member of COMEX (Chicago Mercantile Exchange), which facilitates and eases buying and selling of gold bullion by having it fully integrated with the gold financial futures marketplace.” Also if the Texas depository’s fees are “equal or less than what is now being paid.”

According to a prepared statement from Ferris, the Lone Star Tangible Assets chairman, the Texas Bullion Depository isn’t a member of the Chicago Exchange, but it's working on changing that.

Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who was the Senate sponsor of a bill written by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, said last year that the new depository will ideally, “create synergy to make Texas a financial mecca.”

If the state doesn’t have any gold, who do they think is going to keep their gold in the new depository?

Anybody — individuals, businesses, institutional investors — who wants to store gold in a heavily guarded place with accountability to state officials.

That last part, Smelker said, is what makes the Texas Bullion Depository a unique service — one that LSTA saw as a solid business opportunity.

Right now, Smelker said, there’s growing interest from individual investors, including from people who have IRAs or other retirement accounts that have precious metals in them.

That means that gold storage is a growing market, but it’s relatively unregulated, Smelker said.

Having what amounts to the state of Texas’ ongoing regulatory stamp of approval “will offer a level of compliance and oversight not currently available from private depositories,” Ferris said.

Ultimately, state officials hope that it’ll give the Texas depository an edge in attracting the treasure of not just Texans but investors from around the world.

Wait — does this all mean Texas is preparing to secede? Should I start converting all my money to gold in anticipation of a 'Texit?'

Probably not, said Scott MacDonald, president and CEO of SMU’s Graduate School of Banking.

“Gold is an interesting enigma to me sometimes because a lot of people seem to think it has a special place,” he said. “It’s just a commodity like anything else — like wood.”

But while he said gold can be “a good store of value,” and a fine way of diversifying any investment portfolio, the fluctuations in its value are untethered from the kind of supply and demand pressures that typically affect, say, the price of a barrel of oil.

In other words, its status as a kind of “pseudo-currency” is based on a myth that gold’s value is intrinsic.

Still, he said, the whole bullion depository endeavor really encapsulates the Lone Star state of mind.

“I’m going to just say one of the biggest reasons we have one in Texas is to have one in Texas,” he said with a chuckle. “We don’t want New Yorkers taking care of our stuff.”

 

Houston Pension Bill - As Passed

As you have probably seen in media accounts, the Legislature has passed a billmaking very substantial changes to the City of Houston's pension systems.  The bill as passed was 260 pages and mind-numbingly complex.  When added to the existing statutory language, the Houston pension statutes will now run over 90,000 words, which in and of itself is absurd.

The bill follows the general outline of what Turner proposed last October, but as the result of lobbying by the business community and grass roots activists, the Legislature made significant changes to Turner's original proposal.  This is the first time that groups representing the taxpayers showed up in Austin to be heard on pension legislation.  In the past, local elected officials and the employee groups would make a deal and the Legislature would rubber stamp it.  That is not what happened this time.

Let me begin by emphasizing that while the final bill moves us in the direction of solving the City's pension problems it is far from a permanent solution.  Many of the City's claims about the virtues, like it will allow the City to pay off the pension debt in 30 years or it will save a million dollars a day, are patently false.  And other than the $1 billion in borrowed money, the bill actually allows the City put less money in the plans over the next 5-6 years.  Hardly a way to reduce the debt.

So, the City will face another pension crisis.  The timing of that crisis depends in large measure on how the investments in the pension plans perform over the next few years.  If they continue to perform as they have in recent years (10-year average = 5.6%), that crisis will be sooner rather than later.

A detailed review of the bill is impossible here.  For those of you who want to take a deep dive, you can review the bill [here].  But here is the Cliff Notes version:

1.  Pension Cost Reductions for Infusion of Bond Proceeds - The only part of the new legislation that is likely to make any real difference in the City's pension costs and debt are benefit reductions and increases to the employee contribution in the amount of about 15% or $2.6 billion.  It is important to emphasize that this reduction in pension liabilities is estimated because the actual amount of the savings is dependent on factors in the future, like interest rates.  Nonetheless, the savings are substantial and will bend the cost curve down in the future.

The benefits reductions fall into two categories.

The police and municipal plans agreed to about $1.7 billion in cuts in exchange for the City's agreement to infuse $1 billion from the issuance of pension bonds.  Some of you will recall that in the last mayoral campaign this was one of the scenarios I suggested as a tool to reduce the unfunded liability.  At the time, Turner was adamantly opposed, arguing, "You can't solve debt with more debt."  Fortunately, Turner changed his view.

There are also benefit cuts and contribution increases totaling about $900 million for the fire fighters pension plan.  I have long criticized the fire fighters for being slow to accept that their benefit structure was unsustainable, but the changes to the fire fighter plan are deeply troubling to me.  Unlike the police and municipal plans, the fire fighters did not agree to the cuts in their benefits and will not get any bond money. 

Also, the cuts to the fire fighters' benefits were dramatically more severe than those agreed to by the police and municipal plans.  The average benefit cut per member to the fire fighter benefits under Turner's plan is about $150,000 compared to about $90,000 for police and $28,000 for municipal.

There is no question that the benefits for fire fighters are the most generous benefits of the three plans and were badly in need of reform.  However, this plan does something that every candidate for mayor in 2015, including Turner, promised to never do - take away benefits that had been previously earned by our employees.  How many times did you hear all of us who ran for mayor declare "a deal is a deal" and promise that earned benefits would never, absent an agreement, be cut.  We, as a City, have now done just that and in doing so have clearly broken our word to the current and retired fire fighters.  That is not something that should be taken lightly or celebrated.

2.  Voter Approval of Pension Bonds.  One reform that was won by the business community and grass roots groups was the requirement that any new pension bonds must be approved by voters.  When the Legislature allowed cities to issue pension bonds in 2003, the legislation was silent on whether voter approval was required.  The Attorney General's office has interpreted that silence (incorrectly I believe) to mean that voter approval is not required.  As a result, the City has already issued about $600 million in pension bonds without getting voter approval.

That will no longer be the case.  The bill now requires the City to obtain voter approval before issuing any new bonds.  I have long said that pension bonds can be a tool to help manage our pension problems.  But like any tool, they can be used properly or they can be misused.  Voter approval is an important check to make sure any future pension bonds are not misused.

You may recall that when taxpayer groups first insisted on a voting requirement on bonds, Turner declared it was a poison bill that would kill the bill.  But apparently after Turner saw polling that nearly 80% of Houstonians thought they should vote on any new bonds, the provision became less toxic.

3.  The "Corridor."  The third major component of the bill is a complex mechanism that is intended to limit the amount that the City will contribute to the pension plans in the future as a percentage of payroll, which has come to be known as the "corridor."  As nearly as I have been able to determine, no other entity, public or private, anywhere in the country, has ever implemented anything like the corridor.  It is a completely untested and experimental model.

It is also hideously complex and the provisions are ambiguous and in some cases internally inconsistent.  That, in my experience is a recipe for litigation and I suspect you will see plenty of that in the future.  You will also see the administrative costs for the plans, which are already too high, rise even more.

The real flaw in the corridor mechanism however, assuming it is actually enforced, is that it primarily relies on future increases to employee contributions if the City's contribution rises above the limit.  It is highly likely this will occur because the plans are unlikely to achieve the 7% investment target over the long run.  And a small miss on the investment return equates to very large increases in the employees' contribution.  These increases will be so large at some point in the future it will not be feasible to enforce the corridor.  That is the event that will likely precipitate Houston's next pension crisis.

4.  Phasing out Defined Benefit Plans.  The biggest disappointment with the billis that there is no immediate phasing out of the defined benefit model.  The billdoes include a safety net of sorts that provides that if any of the plans fall below a 65% funded level, they must move all new employees to a cash balance plan.  Cash balance plans have some elements of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans.  Unfortunately, the bill also includes extraordinarily long grace periods (four years for police and fire and ten years for municipal) which will likely make the provisions meaningless for all practical purposes.  In all likelihood, the City will see its next pension crisis long before the expiration of those grace periods.

Nonetheless, the inclusion of this safety net is an important symbolic victory, because it is a concession that phasing out defined benefit plans is the real solution to the City's pension problems. 

5.  The Constitutional Question.  There is one issue outstanding that may make this entire effort for naught.  There is a provision in the Texas Constitution that grants the right to set actuarial assumptions to the pension boards.  Of course, the entire point of the corridor is to force the pension boards to share that power with the City and the bill establishes certain limitations on the pension boards' discretion in setting the assumptions.  While there is certainly an argument to be made that the pension boards should not be exclusively vested with the power to set assumptions, that seems to be what the State Constitution provides.  The fire fighter pension board has already filed suit to declare the legislation unconstitutional.

The other boards currently have no plans to sue, but may find they are forced to do so to avoid liability from their members.  Also, it is possible that any member of the plans could bring such a suit.  Of course, that litigation will take time to resolve.  If the City implements the plan and then it is declared unconstitutional several years from now, we will have a real mess on our hands.

Notwithstanding Turner's public confidence that the City will prevail in this litigation, the City legal staff was manic during the negotiations to get the fire fighter board to agree not to sue.   I make no prediction about the outcome on the merits, but certainly on its face, the legislation appears to violate the constitution.

There is also another practical effect of the fire fighters' lawsuit.  The Texas Attorney General must approve the issuance of any bonds by local governmental entities.  Generally, their policy is to not sign off on any bonds when there is any pending litigation.  Whether the Attorney General's office would find this litigation affects the issuance of the pension bonds is an open question.  But generally, that office has been pretty conservative in making such determinations.

6.  Conclusion.  Shortly after Bill White was elected in 2003, he received the bombshell that the pension plans were underfunded by over $2 billion.  White undertook a series of reforms that reduced benefits and he issued pension bonds to shore up the plans.  But he left the defined benefit model in place.  A dozen years later, our pension debt had tripled.

White's reforms unquestionably reduced the future costs of the pension plans, but ultimately his incremental approach proved not to be a permanent solution.  Such is the case with this plan.  It too reduces the pension costs immediately, but instead of biting the bullet and beginning the phase-out of defined benefit plans, it relies on an untested and what will be proven to be unworkable mechanism to do what moving to defined contribution plans would have accomplished without the cost, complexity, litigation and uncertainty of this plan.   And as a result, Houston taxpayers and employees will suffer in the long run.

 

 

HERE IT IS Detailed List of Top Wikileaks Podesta Emails 

Jim Hoft Oct 17th, 2016 6:44 am 26 Comments

Update by Joe Hoft

Below is a detailed list of noteworthy Podesta emails recently released by WikiLeaks – (New items highlighted in red)

Hillary Policies 

Hillary Clinton Dreams of ‘Open Trade and Open Borders’
Hillary Admits Saudi Arabia and Qatar Fund ISIS – But Took Their Money Anyway
Hillary sat on Board that funded ISIS
Hillary’s own advisor blamed Hillary for Benghazi
Hillary bragged about being invited to Russia’s Putin’s ‘Inner Sanctum’
Clinton Campaign Fudged Climate Change Data – Inflated Emission Numbers
Hillary team picked Tim Kaine as VP in July 2015
Clinton Camp worried as Chelsea hosts “fundraiser” aka Cash payment for Radical Islamic Group that wants to end Israel
Hillary concerned Obama’s over regulation of banks is killing the industry (but this is her position as well)
Obama’s rhetoric ruined the status of forces agreement with Iraq, thus creating ISIS
Trump is right – liberal Hispanic judge’s wife met with Podesta
Hillary’s team agrees that Hillary is running for Obama’s 3rd term
Clinton campaign discussing how to make Hillary more likable
Donald Trump tweets: Obama owes Hillary for illegally holding his emails
Hillary agrees Obamacare stinks in speech to Goldman Sachs (but promotes with public)
Democrats downplay Benghazi because only 4 people died
Smoking gun on Iran deal – Nuclear War coming 
Dems hope to win and have Supreme Court for decades

Hillary and the Media 

CNBC Crank John Harwood Abused GOP Candidates at Debate – Then Trashed Them in Email to Hillary Camp
DNC Chief Donna Brazile Conspired with Hillary to Defeat Bernie; Media Assisted Hillary
The List of Reporters Were Taking Marching Orders from Hillary
Bill Clinton sex “allegations are hurting both Clintons”
Hillary Campaign thanking Univision’s owner Haim Saban for its moderators handling of Hillary against Sanders.
Hillary reads script during interview
CNN refers to Hillary as ‘Madre’
Hacks Have Exposed Journalists In Clinton’s Corner…
WASH POST bureau chief protected Podesta…
NYT Gave Hillary Veto Power On Quotes…
BRAZILE BUSTED: DNC Chief Shared CNN Town Hall Questions…
TRUMP: Hillary Wants World Government; Unlimited immigration; Rule by corporations…
FOX News Mole Leaked Town Hall Question to Clinton Campaign
Podesta invites 20 media people to his place for dinner
CNN Hillary’s Super PAC
Hillary’s Director of Communications has drinks with Washington Post
TIME asking for Print approval
List of media to meet with including Megyn Kelly, O’Reilly and Shep Smith at FOX, Cooper at CNN, etc
Plans for media echo chamber (Stalin would be proud)
Hillary worked with the State Department and the AP to cover up email deletions
Tyrant Hillary keeps Conservative radio host on UK hate speech list
CNN says illegal for you to look at WikiLeaks but ok for them – they will fill us in
CEO of Newsmax working with Clinton Campaign
Huma asks to shorten Hillary speech since she won’t be standing

(from Conservative Treehouse the emails the media won’t cover)

Corrupt Hillary and Obama 

Hillary team discussed deleting emails knowing it was against the law
Hillary Campaign Was in Touch with Obama DOJ on Email Investigation
Hillary trying to get in front of email issue
Hillary’s attorney David Kendall did not turn over thumb drive and server
Hillary accepting foreign money
Hillary’s team doesn’t know what’s in her emails and is nervous about it
Hillary gave special attention to ‘Friends of Bill’ after Haiti quake 
Top Clinton donor paid $250 million for tax evasion
Clinton Staffers Discussed Which Emails To Release…
And Which to DELETE!
CROOKS: Clinton Campaign Chief Owned 75,000 Shares of Putin-Connected Energy Company
Podesta Documents Suggest Scalia Assassination
Hillary and Dept of Justice appeared to have colluded
Hillary’s own campaign doesn’t understand why she deleted 33,000 emails
Hillary sends intel to Podesta on unsecured server
Hillary’s Podesta and Soros are working together
Hillary’s people worried Chelsea Clinton sharing information with Bush daughter about Clinton’s corruption
Robby Mook: “it’s a little troubling” that meeting of Clinton Foundation was held at Goldman Sachs HQ
Bill Clinton receives a million dollar birthday check from Qatar
Huma admits Foreign Interests own HRC 
Chelsea Clinton (CVC) Busted Stealing from Clinton Foundation!!!
US Intelligence Expert Threatens to Kill those at WikiLeaks
Hillary campaign concerned about message of spending money on healthy schools since they didn’t do that
Clinton campaign collected data to discredit Bill Clinton accuser
Hillary gets one day in advance of State Department release
Hillary and pay to play 
Citigroup provides transition team for Obama’s cabinet
Sanders once wrote about women wanting to be raped
DNC plans fake Trump assault cases in May of this year
Dems fake Trump Craig’s List ads
2nd Hillary yoga email finally found
Hillary’s staff discusses hiding emails from investigators (and then deletes them)
Hillary’s staff discusses not sharing her health issues
Hillary likely broke law in Goldman Sachs speech
Hillary’s (medical) van has a bed
Hillary lies about Goldman Sachs costs – she charged them
7 more Clinton scandals as a result of WikiLeaks
Trump tweets that Hillary thought email scandal would just blow over
Trump tweets Hillary – Obama deal about emails was corrupt
Hillary decides to take money from foreign governments!!!
Hillary and DNC have joint account (against the law)!!
Hillary had a mole on Sanders’ team

Racist, Elitist, Bernie Fan Hating Hillary 

Hillary Advisors Admit She “HATES EVERYDAY AMERICANS”
Racist Hillary Trashes African Americans – Calls Them Losers
Hillary Calls Bernie Fans and Millennials “Bucket of Losers” in Goldman Sachs Speech
Hillary Clinton: “I’m Kind of Far Removed from Struggles of Middle Class”
Hillary should stop attacking Bernie, especially when she says things that are untrue, which candidly she often does.
Hillary too afraid to ask for Bernie’s medical records. Knowing Hillary’s medical records are much worse
Massive Clinton ‘hits’ file on Bernie
Hillary says ignorant voters are the key to the win
Hillary wants unaware and compliant citizenry
Dems planned to fool Sanders supporters at convention…
‘His people will think they’ve won something’…
‘Bitching’ Bernie Voters…
Biden Aide Sabotaged His Presidential Aspirations?
Hillary didn’t like ‘bitch’ in the interview
Concerned Trump might win Oregon!
Clinton camp hoped San Bernardino killers were white
Clinton campaign pushed Obama is a Muslim
Hillary wants to promote progressive Islam not radical Islam
Hillary and team admit Islam is threat to society

Hillary and Catholics

Podesta and Left-Wing Activist Plot ‘Catholic Spring’ 
Hillary’s Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri TRASHES CATHOLICS…
Hillary’s 2009 Catholic liaison arrested for prostitution ring

WikiLeaks – Podesta emails –

 

 

City of Houston Proposed Tax Rate fr 2017

Mayor Sylvester Turner plans to ask city voters next fall to do away with a decade-old cap on city revenues, but for now he's stuck with it.

So City Council on Wednesday will consider cutting Houston's property

tax rate for the third time in three years, saving taxpayers money but also straining city coffers at a time when rising pension and debt costs risk forcing widespread layoffs and service reductions next summer.

The rate proposed to be set - 58.642 cents per $100 of property value - is the lowest since 1987, and represents an 8.2 percent drop since the cap took effect.

"We're a growing, dynamic, vibrant city and we have a lot of needs," Turner said. "People want us to be cost efficient and fiscally prudent and we are demonstrating that, but people want more police out on the street - that costs money. They want more paramedics - that costs money. They want better streets, flooding, those things cost money. For us to be forced to lower our property rates … it doesn't make good sense."

Voters OK'd the revenue cap in 2004, amending the city charter to limit the annual growth of property tax revenue to the combined rates of inflation and population growth, or 4.5 percent, whichever is lower. Voters tweaked the cap in 2006, allowing the city to raise an additional $90 million for public safety spending.

Houston exhausted that breathing room two years ago, and, with property values still on the rise, has had to crank back its tax rate each fall to avoid collecting more revenue than is allowed.

If the cap had not come into force, Houston would have been able to collect a projected $220 million more in the current fiscal year and the two prior ones, officials estimate.

During the same time period, the owner of a $200,000 Houston home with a standard homestead exemption will have saved about $84 in taxes, compared with the cap never having taken effect.

"People really haven't seen the benefits of that," Turner said. "They're not feeling that."

Even though the tax rate is falling, it doesn't mean residents' city taxes are, because the tax rate is applied to the value of each property and most Houstonians' home values have been rising.

Must eliminate waste

Councilman Dave Martin, who represents conservative Kingwood and Clear Lake, acknowledged $84 over three years is "not that big of a deal" to the average citizen. But Martin said he opposes lifting the cap until savings are found in departments he views as inefficient, such as the Houston Fire Department.

"We cannot ask the taxpayers for more money without looking at ourselves and asking, 'Are we operating this city at maximum efficiency?' The answer to that is no,'" Martin said. "Until you can get the city of Houston to eliminate the waste that we have in various departments, the citizens of the city should demand that we not remove the revenue cap, no matter if it saves $1."

Councilman Jerry Davis, who represents Acres Homes, Fifth Ward and other underserved neighborhoods on the northside, said his residents do not credit the revenue cap for saving them money and do not blame it for hurting city services, because many do not realize it exists at all.

Davis believes if his voters were informed about the impact of the cap, however, they would vote to reject it.

Balance cost, needs

"Yes, it's a savings and we're all grateful for savings," Davis said. "But at the end of the day, would you give up $20 or $30 annually to make sure you have another police officer patrolling your area more frequently? My constituents will give up that $20 annually."

The city of Houston is just one of eight or so local governments to which local residents pay property taxes, and the city rate is roughly half that of Houston ISD's tax rate

The city wants to reduce taxes by 1 1/2 cents and Lone Star College wants to increase their Tax Rate by 1 1/2 cents.

Events

Presidential Debate Watch Party October 9th 7 P.M. Spring Creek Barbecue FM 1960.

Kingwood Republican Women Luncheon

 October 26, 2016

1700 Lake Kingwood Trails Dr

111 A.M.

Topic Ballot Security

Speaker Alan Vera Chairmen HCRP Ballot Security

 

MUD 415 Election

 

There was a meeting of the MUD 415 Board on 9/28/2016 to discuss the MUD Rate. It was decided to keep the MUD Rate at .80/100 of assessed value. It is important to note although the rate stays the same the assessed value of home's has risen. So what does that mean it means you will still pay more in MUD taxes as your home's assessed value has increased. The Board will say you are not paying more taxes because the rate has not changed but you are paying more because the value of your home has increased do not be fooled by semantics. There will a hearing that is open to the public  the date has not been set yet. I will post it when it is available.

City proposes a Tax decrease of 58.642 cents  per every $100 in property Tax. Which equals an effective tax rate of 0.59607 per every $ 100 of tax able property value lets say you own a $430,000 home you will pay $2564.98 in property tax for 2016. Doesn't sound like much until you add County, MUD, school and all the other Taxes.  MUD 415 Election

 

Loan Star College District Tax Increase

The Lone Star College System District conducted public hearings on September 14, 2016 and September 19, 2016 on a proposal to increase the total tax revenues of the Lone Star College System District from properties on the tax roll in the preceding year by 1.70 percent. Yet if you go to the websites below do the calculations they invite you to do the increase is 3.14%. If you look at how they compute the Tax Rate increases you find that they add Operating (TAXES) and Debt (TAXES) together divide by the Tax base to get the rate. Every cent they get they spend.

 http://www.lonestar.edu/departments/accounting/2016ETRNotice_FINAL.PDF

http://www.lonestar.edu/departments/financetreasury/2016TaxRevIncr.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

City of Houston Pension Plan

 

Mayor Sylvester Turner said pension reform will require reducing annual cost-of-living increases. ( Steve Gonzales / Houston Chronicle )

Houston's long-running pension troubles have something strangely in common with climate change, health care reform and what's wrong with the Houston Astros. They're all very complicated problems that a lot of people argue about, but they're so dizzyingly complex all we can ultimately do is trust experts to solve them.

Mayor Sylvester Turner last week announced that he's reached a tentative agreement with the city's three pension funds - representing police, firefighters and municipal employees - to drag our city out of the $8.3-billion-dollar hole threatening Houston's financial stability. Give this mayor credit: Sylvester Turner has made more progress on this problem than his predecessor achieved in six years. But until there's a solid plan on paper that experts can analyze, this is hardly a point to stop and celebrate.

As outlined by the mayor, the deal would eliminate underfunding of the pension plans over the course of 30 years, cut benefits to reduce the unfunded liability by about half or $2.5-billion, lower the Pollyanna projection of future returns from 8.5 percent to 7 percent and borrow $1 billion in bond money. Most important, the mayor says this plan will definitively cap Houston's pension liability in the future, essentially closing the bottomless pit that threatens to swallow our city's financial solvency. 

Pension fund leaders for the police and non-uniformed city employees have accepted all of the major terms of the deal, but the notoriously intransigent firefighters fund has yet to agree to a key portion of the agreement. The mayor calls this the "thermostat" that he claims will cap Houston's future liability, essentially setting a limit on what percentage of the city's annual payroll will go to paying for pensions. If the payments hit that limit, state law would obligate the city and the pension funds to go back to the negotiating table and either raise employees' contributions or lower their benefits.

 

If nothing else, he's convinced pension fund officials to give up $2.5 billion in benefit concessions that would reduce the city's unfunded liability by roughly one-third, a testament to Turner's decades of experience slapping backs and twisting arms in the Texas Legislature.

Still, our eyebrows remain arched until we see a plan in ink. Elected officials have a history of prematurely saying "mission accomplished." Although the mayor called a news conference declaring victory, the simple truth is that important details are still being worked out. And if the politically active firefighters don't agree to the deal, they could call upon their brethren across Texas to pressure lawmakers to kill it in the state Legislature, which has to approve any pension change.

During the coming weeks and months as this agreement is presented for approval by city council and state lawmakers, it will be closely scrutinized and hotly debated not only at City Hall and in the Capitol but also on our opinion pages. More than a few questions need to be considered:

Should Houston issue a billion dollars in pension obligation bonds? Mayor Turner himself vowed during his campaign he wouldn't issue bonds to pay down pension debt, but now he's changed his mind. Experts in this field think putting pension obligations on a credit card is a bad idea. And more debt for pensions squeezes out room for roads, water and other infrastructure.

What's the limit Houston should pay into pension funds? Right now, roughly one-third of the city's payroll expenses go into pension funds. This deal would lower that amount, but pensions would still suck up a substantial part of the city budget.

Is a 7 percent rate of return realistic? If this number is wrong, the results could be catastrophic. A disastrously faulty assumption about the rate of return Houston's pension funds could expect is the main mistake that got us into this mess. 

Does Houston need to make more fundamental changes to its retirement system? Private sector employers have spent the last couple of decades getting out of the business of providing retirees with monthly pension checks, shifting to 401(k)-style plans. City officials say they considered this alternative - which employee groups flatly oppose - and concluded Houston wouldn't see any benefit for 30 years. But there's still big questions about whether Turner's plan simply kicks the can a long way down the road, retaining a systemic problem for the next generation of Houston taxpayers.

This isn't mission accomplished - not yet. Turner's success in floating a serious deal after only nine months in office is an impressive feat. But it doesn't take an expert to know there's a big difference between holding a City Hall press conference and getting plan in place that will actually shrink unfunded liabilities and reduce the city's fiscal burden.

Oppinion: By Eleminating the City's spending cap and following the above pension plan the city's tax rate will skyrocket causing an exodus from the city.

 

 

Harris County Home Values Skyrocketing 

As illustrated in the chart above, taxable values in Harris County have risen more than 47% since 2012.

Be sure that you and your loved ones are taking advantage of all exemptions available, such as: 

·  RESIDENTIAL HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

·  The Homestead exemption application must be accompanied with your driver’s license or state-issued personal identification that has your new home address  The address listed on your identification must match the address of the property in the application.

·  You can deliver your form to HCAD at 13013 Northwest Freeway or mail it            

As illustrated in the chart above, taxable values in Harris County have risen more than 47% since 2012.

Be sure that you and your loved ones are taking advantage of all exemptions available, such as: 

·  Residential Homestead – Taxpayer owns and lives in the home on January 1st.  ($100K  with Homestead exemption can save $600 on tax bill)

·  Over-65 – Taxpayer is over the age of 65 and lives in the home

(County has a $160,000 exemption)

·  Disability Homestead – Taxpayer has a qualifying disability

·  Veterans Exemptions – 100% Disability, Partial Disability, Surviving Spouse Killed in Action, Donated Residence  (Veterans can also get specialized help at our Military Help Desk) 

 

RESIDENTIAL HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

·  The Homestead exemption application must be accompanied with your driver’s license or state-issued personal identification that has your new home address  The address listed on your identification must match the address of the property in the application.

·  You can deliver your form to HCAD at 13013 Northwest Freeway or mail it            

 

Hillary Clinton and Pay for Play

 new batch of emails released Tuesday is raising fresh questions about whether Clinton Foundation donors got preferential treatment from the State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure at the top. 

Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch released 44 new email exchanges which it says were not in the original 30,000 handed over to the State Department, despite the Democratic presidential nominee's claims she turned over all work-related emails amid the now-closed probe into her private server use.

The documents, produced as a result of the group's FOIA lawsuit, appear to challenge Clinton's insistence that there is "no connection" between her family foundation and her work at the department. 

In one email exchange released by Judicial Watch, Doug Band, an executive at the Clinton Foundation, tried to put billionaire donor Gilbert Chagoury -- a convicted money launderer -- in touch with the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there.

In the email, Band notes that Chagoury is a “key guy there [Lebanon] and to us,” and insists Clinton aide Huma Abedin call Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman to connect him with Chagoury.

Chagoury is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton and has appeared on the Clinton Foundation donor list as a $1 million to $5 million contributor. He’s also pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative. Chagoury was convicted in 2000 in Switzerland for money laundering. He cut a deal and agreed to repay $66 million to the Nigerian government.

In another email from April 2009, Band seems to pressure Clinton’s former aides Cheryl Mills and Abedin into hiring a foundation associate.

In the email, Band writes it’s “important to take care of [name redacted].”

Abedin responds, telling Band, “Personnel has been sending him options.”

The latest batch of emails came more than a week after Clinton said, in a "Fox News Sunday" interview, that “there is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.” 

The Republican National Committee seized on the appearance of favor-trading in the latest batch of documents. 

“That the Clinton Foundation was calling in favors barely 3 months into Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department is deeply troubling and it is yet another reminder of the conflicts of interest and unethical wheeling and dealing she’d bring to the White House,” spokesman Michael Short said in a statement. 

But a Clinton campaign spokesman said: “Neither of these emails involve the Secretary or relate to the Foundation’s work. They are communications between her aides and the President’s personal aide, and indeed the recommendation was for one of the Secretary’s former staffers who was not employed by the Foundation.” 

The campaign initially was responding to an account in The Wall Street Journal. 

The emails are separate from a larger batch of several thousand work-related emails that FBI officials recovered from Clinton's private server.

Clinton's legal team turned over more than 30,000 emails from her server to the State Department last March but only after deleting another 30,000 messages that Clinton's team deemed private and personal. The FBI plans to turn over the reconstructed Clinton emails to the State Department for public release.

The new Clinton emails also include a February 2009 message to her from Stephen Roach, then-chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, saying he planned to testify to Congress that week and was "happy to help in any way I can." Roach later met with Clinton over the summer for 30 minutes, according to Clinton calendars obtained by The Associated Press.

In another email, Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, informed her that National Security Agency and State Department officials discussed an attempt to develop a modified blackberry for Clinton that might be used when she worked in a restricted State Department office that did not allow private phones.

Clinton called the development "good news," but she continued using a private Blackberry tied to her private server.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brussels Attacks

City Councilman Dave Martin District E

Following the horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22, the City of Houston reminds residents that we all have a role in securing public spaces. Residents are encouraged to be aware of suspicious behavior and improvised explosive devices, and to report any concerns immediately to law enforcement. If you believe it is an emergency, dial 9-1-1. Residents may also report suspicious behavior online here or by calling (1) 855-492-8244.

In response to the March 22 attacks, Mayor Sylvester Turner stated that Houston's homeland security division is constantly working with other law enforcement agencies to keep Houstonians safe. Houston City Hall was additionally illuminated with the colors of the Belgian flag as a show of support and solidarity for the victims of the attacks and the residents of Brussels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republican Primary

By Janie Branham, Kingwood Area Republican Women President

WOW!  The Kingwood Area Republican Women did a great job in getting out the vote in the 2016 Republican Primary.  In Harris County, the Republican primary turnout more than doubled the 2012 turnout.  The Kingwood area was not an exception.  Your efforts to get Republican voters to the polls were tremendous.  For instance, Republican turnout in the District 127 Texas House primary in 2012 was 12,317.  It was 23,413 this year.

Local Republican incumbents easily withstood challenges.  In the challenges closest to home, District 127 State Representative Dan Huberty easily beat challenger Mitch Bosworth capturing 78% of the vote.  Ron Hickman (Sheriff) and Mark Herman (Precinct 4 Constable) easily won their bids for Republican nomination.  Kingwood resident Mike Sullivan also won the Republican nomination for Tax Collector/Assessor.

Our local Republican representatives show their dedication constantly.  People like Dan Huberty, Mike Sullivan, Ron Hickman, Mark Herman, and Lincoln Goodwin who continuously dedicate themselves to our community are held dear to our hearts.  While no one likes to get challenged in a primary those challenges do allow the voters to lift their voice in support of those who serve us.  We are grateful for such opportunities and the 2016 primary will go down as a primary where the voters of the Kingwood area made their voice heard in a loud and clear manner.

Now that the primary is over it is important to maintain the same resolve in November.  I’m proud to be a member of a party and a club that stands for freedom and principle, and practices politics with voice, action and hard work. Take some time to celebrate and then get ready to work again to get all of our nominees elected in November.

 

     KARW Lending a Hand in the Community

 

 KARW donated bags to the Kingwood HS JR ROTC Program. The bags will be used by the JR ROTC as Goody Bags for their upcoming Gulf Tournament. The Gulf Tournament will raise money for the ROTC Program at the HS.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Political advertising paid for by Kingwood Area Republican women PAC, Regina Thompson, Treasurer, P.O. Box 5906, Kingwood, TX 77325-5906. Political contributions are not tax deductible for Federal Income Tax.
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