On Monday, September 10, 2018, the Plano City Council Voted 5-3 to raise residents property taxes 4.5% and pass the budget as is. Councilmen Ricciardelli, Smith, and Harrison all vote against the tax increase. Even though over 1000 residents signed petitions, called, emailed, and spoke out against the tax increase, Council Members Miner, Kelly, Grady, Prince, and the Mayor voted to raise property taxes. (Miner, Kelly, and Grady are up for re-election in May of 2019).
When comments were confined to council, each member (except Tom Harrison) gave remarks. Councilman Ricciardelli decided to vote against the tax increase because of something one resident said during the second public hearing. At that hearing resident Amy Rattleff said that while the city is asking for an increase her families' wages won't be going up. Councilman Ricciardelli found that while General Funding for the city has gone up 35.9% from 2009-2017, residents wages have only gone up 11.3% in the same time frame. This disconnect is not sustainable, and residents will be forced out of Plano.
Councilwoman Prince spoke next. She sees this vote as a long term decision, and feels in order to repair our aging city and maintain our services, she has to vote for the budget and tax increase. Perhaps she missed all the wasteful things that were in the budget, and the items that never get spent year after year?
Councilman Smith felt the council could do a better job with the budget and saving money. I guess he did not miss the items Prince did. He also thanked the Citizens Budget Committee for the months of work they did looking at the budget.
Councilwoman Miner read from a prepared statement. She passed the blame for higher property taxes to the Collin and Denton County Appraisal Districts. She said, “It is not the city of Plano who is raising your taxes, it is the appraisal districts.” I sometimes wonder how this woman got elected; then I remember she did not have an opponent in her election. Yes Ms. Miner, the appraisal districts set the value of homes, but city council decides how much tax it will place on that value. Only City Council can raise or cut taxes; the appraisal districts have nothing to do with how much money the city takes from the residents.
Councilwoman Miner also tried to distract from the city tax issue by talking about PISD and recapture. Yes, PISD does tax the residents. Yes, the state takes billions of dollars from PISD to give to other cities. Plano's state legislatures have tried to end recapture (Robin Hood) or change it. The problem is our guys are out voted. You see, more cities get recapture money then give it. I don't know a single politician crazy enough to vote to cut money that their schools get. Even so, Plano residents still complain to their state reps about recapture. However, Ms Miner, PISD has nothing to do with city taxes. She could have lowered the residents city tax bill; that would have saved the residents money, but she decided to increase the peoples' tax burden.
Councilman Grady read from a prepared statement as well. He talked about the petition that residents fill out to try and convince council not to raise taxes. Councilman Grady said that some of the signers were renters and should be excluded. Apparently Mr. Grady does not know that landlords pass their property taxes on to their renters in the monthly rent bills, so when a landlord's property taxes go up, so does the rent bill. Councilman Grady also said that multiple petitions from the same address should not count. So, Mr. Grady thinks that only one person per household should be allowed to fill out a petition; he basically feels spouses should not be aloud to voice their opinions. Perhaps he thinks only one person per household should be allowed to vote too? Councilman Grady did make one good point, however. He supports policy discussions on the budget and tax rates between October and January. Councilman Ricciardelli suggested the same thing when he was giving his comments, but the Mayor stopped him, and told him to stick to the 2018/19 tax rate and budget. Apparently the Mayor likes Grady more then Ricciardelli.
Councilman Ron Kelly also read from a written statement. “Whenever you see explosive growth, costs go up.”, he said in order to defend his vote for the tax increase. But, wait a minute; when the council wants to vote for more growth they say that it will help reduce property taxes. So, which is it? Does growth increase property taxes or reduce it? According to the council's tax increases over the last five years, growth raises property taxes.
Councilman Kelly also said, “We have an aging infrastructure that needs fixing.” That is a valid point, until you remember that the residents passed a $94 million bond for street repairs in the last local election. Where did that money go? All of our streets have not been repaired, and some street repairs have started but are no where near finished. Apparently we have run out of that bond money because in May 2019 the city will be asking residents to vote on more bonds.
Councilman Kelly also commented on the fact that by voting for this tax increase he will be breaking a campaign promise. He said, “My job is to govern not to be political.” In other words, Councilman Kelly's promises are worthless. Some would even say he lied. For those reasons, I don't think residents who supported Councilman Kelly in his first election will be supporting him again.
The last person to speak was the Mayor. He started his comments by insulting residents. “We have a self appointed citizens budget group that decided they had the capabilities to run a $750 million budget. Maybe if you use to be a CPA doing tax returns you can run a city budget, or if you're someone who cares you can run a city, inaccurate!”, he said. Excuse me Mayor, if a CPA, a CFO, business owners, an economics teacher, and MBA can't understand a city budget, how the heck can you?! You, Mr. Mayor, have a Bachelor of Science in Geology, so don't insult residents ability to understand a budget. If the Mayor thinks the budget is too difficult for residents to understand, then he should tell staff to make it reader friendly.
The Mayor also took time to attack Empower Texans and its representative Ross Kecseg for helping facilitate the petition. The Mayor said, “We have Empower Texans who has made a visit to set their sites on how unappropriated we are to manage our funds. Low tax rate, low debt is their mantra, we have both. So Mr. Ross maybe after this meeting you can tell us what your problem is with Plano.” Mr. Ross Kecseg tried to answer the Mayor's question, but the Mayor cut him off.
So, for another year City Council raised residents' tax bills. If this trend continues Plano will be a city that only the rich can afford, and the City Council will only have itself to blame.
This is Plano's Political Pit Bull signing off.