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Posts published in “Day: October 22, 2013”

Houston ISD votes 3 cent tax increase; Aldine ISD down 2.25 cents

Taxing Districts in process of setting rates, up and down

This is the time of year taxing entities set budgets and tax rates for another year. To date, Houston ISD has voted a major increase of 3¢ per $100 valuation, and Aldine ISD has lowered their rate by 2.25¢. Others are expected to hold their rates, because property valuations are increasing this year, resulting in more money for most entities, in spite of no rate change, or a small changes.

Local districts that have not changed their rates to date include Houston Community College, City of Houston, and Harris County. Harris County Flood Control has proposed a small increase, and ESD#1 a small decrease. However, some of their tax bills will increase, depending upon the appraisal value of your property. This will also create more income for the taxing units.

Houston ISD still lowest of any district in County

October 10, 2013 – The HISD Board of Education on Thursday adopted a 3-cent property tax rate increase. This represents the first such rate increase since 2001. The new property tax rate of $1.1867 per $100 taxable value is nearly 24 cents less than the average Harris County school district – maintaining HISD’s position as having the lowest rate of any district in the region.

The tax rate measure was adopted by a 4-3 vote with trustees Larry Marshall, Paula Harris, Harvin Moore, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones in favor, and trustees Anna Eastman, Michael Lunceford, and Juliet Stipeche opposed.

Because the new tax rate does not cover all of the district’s financial obligations for the current school year, the board also agreed to use $4.9 million in savings from prior years to balance the budget.

Homeowner Exemption Intact

In addition to having the lowest tax rate in the county, HISD is among just eight county school districts that grant homeowners an additional 20 percent homestead exemption. As a result, the owner of a $200,000 home in HISD pays hundreds less in taxes than the owner of a home with the same value elsewhere in Harris County.

Harris County school districts with higher tax rates in 2012 than HISD’s 2013 tax rate include: Aldine, Alief, Channelview, Clear Creek, Crosby, Cypress-Fairbanks, Dayton, Deer Park, Galena Park, Goose Creek, Huffman, Humble, Katy, Klein, La Porte, New Caney, Pasadena, Pearland, Sheldon, Spring, Spring Branch, Stafford, and Tomball.

HISD spends less on administrative costs than most other large Texas school districts – having an administrative cost ratio of 4.61 percent, which is less than those reported for Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, just to name a few.

The rate change largely results from cuts to public education funding that the Texas Legislature imposed in 2011, which cost Houston schools $75 million in 2011 and a total of $122 million in 2012. In the first year of those cuts, HISD balanced the budget by cutting expenses, resulting in layoffs in central administration and in schools.

In 2012, rather than imposing further cuts on schools, the HISD Board of Education agreed to address the remaining deficit though the use of one-time federal money, and by dipping into savings. The district also reduced the amount of general fund money that is normally transferred to the district’s debt service fund to help repay loans at a faster rate than is required.

The Houston Independent School District is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States with 282 schools and 210,000 students. The 334-square-mile district is one of the largest employers in the Houston metropolitan area with more than 25,000 employees.

For more information, visit the HISD Web site at www.houstonisd.org.

Finding My Father’s Mark

By Kristan Hoffman

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited Seattle for the first time. The city is an interesting mix of big business and hippie culture, with vibrant art and foodie scenes too. I saw all the main attractions — Mt. Rainer, Puget Sound, Pike’s Place market, the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass — but one of the most memorable highlights, at least for me, was something you probably wouldn’t find in a travel guide.

“4th Ave. About 35 stories tall. Cross-hatching support beams that you can see from the outside, like giant X’s. I think it’s brown with black windows. And it used to be owned by a bank.”

This was the information my father had given me over the phone. Vague memories from decades ago. The reason my dad wanted me to find this building is that he had been part of the team that designed it, back when he worked for a big architectural firm. He has always done this: pointed out bits of history that are interesting or important to him, thinking they’ll be interesting or important to everyone else too. Growing up I thought it was cool, then lame, then annoying, then endearing. Now that I’m an adult, I think it’s all of those things at once.

Scanning the skyline from the Bainbridge ferry and later the Seattle monorail, I saw a handful of skyscrapers that were possible candidates — including an ugly brown one that I desperately hoped was not his. But upon closer inspection, none of them had the cross-hatching support beams that my dad swore would confirm his building’s identity. They were like a litmus test, or a birthmark.

Fueled by a sense of daughterly duty, I decided to reserve my last morning in Seattle for tracking down my dad’s building. The strap of my duffel bag dug into my shoulder as I hiked up and down the hills, certain that somehow I could find this thing. Certain that my dad’s role in the project would echo through the years and serve as a homing beacon for me to follow.

That didn’t happen. In the end, it took another phone call to my dad, and an assist from Google, to figure out which building it was. But at long last, I found it. Better yet: I liked it.

The building sits on the corner of Marion St. and 5th Ave, crisp and white, striped by dark windows. It has a little Asian restaurant in the ground floor, as well as a newsstand, an ATM, and other useful nooks. It’s clustered in with several other skyscrapers — some taller, some not — but its gleaming façade distinguishes it from the crowd. Though it was built 30 years ago, the building still looks modern. The materials are attractive and have held up to both time and weather. There is good attention to detail, such as the tidy angles, the orange accent panels, and the lovely contrasting textures. Those cross-hatching beams are subtle, but elegant.

After taking photos and admiring it from the outside, I made my way inside. The interior was similarly sophisticated and stylish. As I wandered around, grinning, I found myself hoping that someone would stop me to ask what I was doing. Then I could say, “Oh, I’m here because my dad’s an architect. He designed this building.”