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Posts published in “Day: June 17, 2003

Aldine District considers tax increase

By P.J. Williams

A four cent tax increase may be needed to meet the $358.9 million budget for the 2003-2004 school year even though it is $18.3 million less than last year’s budget.

According to AISD financial superintendent Keith Clark the tax increase will be decided on in August after the Harris County Appraisal District releases the new appraisals for property values. “At this time, this is the rate we think we will need for the budget we’ve approved,” Clark said. “If property values go up over what we projected, then we won’t have to raise taxes as much.”

According to Clark, the average property value in the Aldine district is $79,000. Even if the 4 cent increase is needed, the average homeowner would see an increase of only $25 a year, or $2.13 a month.

Freeport Exemption adopted by taxing agencies

By P.J. Williams and Gilbert Hoffman

A tax-free industrial zone, which has been promoted by the North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce as an important economic stimulus for the Northeast Houston area, received another boost as the Aldine ISD Board voted to adopt the freeport amendment. This action joined with other area taxing districts, including Houston and the Aldine Improvement District, in extending the exemption to certain businesses in the area to exclude their goods in storage or processing from local property taxes.

The Aldine School Board recently struck a deal with local businesses and voted to approve the Freeport Tax Exemption. According to district financial officers, this move should encourage economic activity in the Aldine area without costing the school district.

“We’re not going to lose any money on it,” said Keith Clark, Aldine financial superintendent.

Local companies who will benefit from the tax exemption agreed to pay the school district 1.33 times what they would have paid in taxes up to the 6.5 million dollars the school district will lose the first year from the tax revenue.

Clark said that the state will equalize funding after the first year to make up for the loss.

Clark also suggested that the exemption may boost the local economy and eventually increase property values and in turn increase school funds.

A 1989 constitutional amendment authorized property tax exemption for Freeport property. In 1990, Aldine decided to override the Freeport exemption and continue taxing the property. Now that the Aldine board has chosen to exempt Freeport property, it will remain exempt forever.

Freeport property includes goods, wares, merchandise, ores, and certain aircraft parts. It does not include oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products.

Freeport property qualifies for an exemption only if it has been detained in the state for 175 days or less for the purpose of assembly, storage, manufacturing, processing, or fabricating.

Even when goods are sold to an in-state purchaser rather than shipped directly out of state, they may qualify for the Freeport exemption. To receive the exemption in such a case, the property must qualify under the above requirements as Freeport property and must be transported out of the state within 175 days after it was first acquired in or imported into the state.

Some types of companies currently receiving Freeport tax exemptions include automakers, computer manufacturers, beverage producers, iron works, warehousing and distribution facilities, and medical supply companies.

Juneteenth Celebrations

In remembrance of Juneteenth, the following groups and associations held fun-filled festivals and celebrations.

Independence Heights will host its second annual Juneteenth Parade and Festival on June 21.

The parade will begin at Kennedy Elementary, 306 Crosstimbers at 10 a.m. It will proceed southeast on North Main to East 35th and then to Independence Park . The Booker T. Washington band will be featured along with antique cars, dignitaries and students from Kennedy Elementary. A day-long festival including food booths, a hat contest, a track meet and a raffle drawing will follow the parade.

Acres Homes will hold its 11th Annual Juneteenth Zydeco Rhythm & Blues Festival June 21 from 2-8 p.m. at 6130 Wheatley near Tidwell.

Entertainment will include Nooney & the Zydeco Floaters, the rhythm & blues band Something Unique and the Booker T. Washington band nicknamed “Baby Ocean of Soul.”

There will be a Zydeco dance contest, food booths, vendors and live broadcasts by KRWP-FM Power 97.5 and KBXX-FM 97.9.

The National Emancipation Association’s free Juneteenth Freedom Festival will be held June 19th at Miller Theater in Hermann Park. The 13th anniversary festivities begin at 2 p.m. with a program and introduction of Miss Juneteenth and Court plus recognition of senior citizens. Those who attend the program may then have free barbecue at 3:45. The rest of the evening will feature a talent extravaganza at 4:30 p.m. At 8:00 p.m., four bands, a soloist, and a main feature will entertain the crowd. The Theme is “May the light of history guide our footsteps.”

Acres Home Branch Library will feature Beulah Shepherd as guest speaker on June 19 from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Shepherd is a local activist who will speak on the importance of Juneteenth. The African ensemble Zeitor, face painting, and refreshments will also entertain participants. Admission is free. The library is located at 8501 W. Montgomery. Call 832-393-1700 for more information.

Rep. Gene Green hosts annual Citizens Day workshop

Rep. Gene Green hosts annual Citizenship Day Workshop

On Saturday, June 14, Rep. Gene Green hosted his annual Citizenship Day Workshop in conjunction with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ National Citizenship Day.

This is a one-stop application processing opportunity for legal residents interested in obtaining their American citizenship.

The Workshop was held at the Houston Community College Northeast Campus at Northline Mall, I-45 at Crosstimbers.This is the 9th year Rep. Green will host the workshop with the help of numerous volunteers, representatives from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), Constable Victor Trevino, the National Association of the Latino Elected Officials, the League of United American Citizens, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and the United States Postal Service. Approximately 300 applications were processed during the workshop. The process consisted of completing form N400, taking photographs, and purchasing money orders for the application fee. When this process is completed, applications will be mailed to the BCIS. For additional information, contact Green’s office.

Legislature finished, may return: Budget balanced, but redistricting, Robin Hood unresolved


AUSTIN— Chicken Ds/ Killer Ds, Robin Hood and budget crisis. While these are the areas which the 78th State Legislature will most be remembered, there were literally hundreds of bills filed this session which will go unnoticed by most residents.

Hanging like a shadow over legislators was the worst budget crisis that the state has faced in a half century, with a $9+ billion budget shortfall that had to be reconciled.

Two of the biggest issues, redistricting and the “Robin Hood” funding of school districts, were not acted on by the time the session closed, and likely the Governor will call a special session later in the year to deal with one or both of these issues.

Our local Representative, Joe Crabb, is chairman of the committee that must deal with redistricting. However, he was not involved in the so-called Chicken D flight of 51 Democratic legislators, who fled to Oklahoma to avoid a vote on the issue, until it was too late.

Proponents of gambling won a major victory in Austin this session with a bill that will allow Texas to enter multi-state lotteries such as Powerball. This action, say backers, will bring in approximately $101 million to the state coffers. The legislature, did, however, give a thumbs-down to letting the Texas Lottery Commissioner operate keno games.

Family-related issues were popular among legislators. Among bills to pass was an abortion waiting period, which requires women seeking abortion to wait 24 hours and to receive printed material about fetal development.

The legislature also issued a legal definition of the term “embryo” and “fetus” as an individual that would allow prosecution of a person who deliberately harms and kills the fetus. This issue had gain nation-wide attention since the death of Laci Peterson and her unborn son in California. There is also an effort in Washington D.C. to pass legislation that would allow prosecution on the federal level and provide consistent enforcement across the country.

Another local legislator, Kevin Bailey, was deeply involved in investigating the Houston Crime Lab, and it’s failure to process DNA and other evidence properly. His bill requires licensing of these labs, which was not currently the practive in Houston.

The legislature also banned state recognition of same sex marriages or civil unions formed in other states. In a compromise with Gay rights advocates, legislators voted down a bill that would have prevented gay couples from serving as foster parents.

Tackling the issue of campaign reform, legislators passed a bill that would stiffen identification requirements for campaign contributors and would require office holders to report not only contributions and expenditures but cash on hand.

One bill, which has been attacked by family rights advocates, is the deregulation of college and universities’ tuition rates. This bill allows schools to set their own rates, which Texas A&M and the University of Texas officials say will likely rise as much as 40 percent. Locally, Lee College raised their rate a modest $4 per credit hour.

While literally hundreds of bills were passed by the joint houses this session, a similar number fell by the wayside. Among these not to pass muster was an initiative to raise cigarette tax as much as a $1 per pack, and a bill that would have banned drivers from using cell phones while operating a vehicle unless using a hands-free device.

Criminal Justice-related bills took a hit from legislators this session with three main bills failing, the first would have allowed juries the option of sentencing defendants to life in prison without parole for capital offenses. Currently, the choices given to juries are the death penalty or life with the possibility of parole.

Two other bills directly related to the death penalty were also defeated. The first would have placed a ban on sentencing someone to death if they committed the crime before they were 18 years old. The second would have created a pre-trial hearing to determine if a capital murder defendant is mentally retarded. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the mentally retarded cannot be executed.