I am highly concerned about the article I read in last Wednesday’s Wylie News, School district receives donations. In the article it states that out of 13,000 students, there are 4,000 that qualify for reduced lunches. That number represents roughly 30.7%, or let’s use our rounding skills and call it an even 31%. Now count in those students that qualify for reduced fee lunches but don’t sign up because they don’t want their children to feel the stigma of poverty, and please let’s not make any pretentions about this because we all know this sigma exists, then I believe we can state that roughly 1/3 of Wylie’s students are living at or barely above poverty and are most certainly not as well off as the other 2/3 of us.
This 31% number is truly disconcerting. Throughout my blog posts, I’ve pointed out all sorts of options that the City of Wylie could take to help ease the burden of Wylie’s citizens, but for the longest time that either fell on deaf ears, or worse yet was laughed at by some of the more ridiculous and insensitive members of the 2/3 of Wylie’s financially better off citizens. I’m sure those that are struggling in Wylie must have appreciated that the ‘haves’ could laugh at the notion that cutting taxes by 1% would be enough for them to buy 1 pizza a month. For someone who needs that 1 pizza a month, it is no laughing matter.
Ultimately one of my notions that Wylie truly has a problem and the high taxes might be a contributing force has finally been accepted, well sort of. Let’s face it, the people that have been sitting on the Wylie City Council are considerably more elite than those taking the reduced fee meal plans. We equate intelligence and sound decision-making skills with higher incomes, well high enough to afford what it takes to run a successful campaign anyway, but income doesn’t really parallel any sign of cogent thought or sound decision-making skills.
This laundry list of Council men and women of past and present have routinely thought only one-dimensionally. The nearly annual continuation that higher taxes meant they can spend more was the height of insanity. The perpetuation of allowing their buddy developers to ram in a sea of mediocre homes was just plain dumb. All of these identical rooftops will never net the city the roughly $235-250K home tax assessment needed to break even. This home value is critical because it is the minimum needed just to break even and stop costing the City of Wylie money to service those homes. Most people have no idea that it actually costs the City money to provide every home in Wylie with basic services, such as tidy and smooth sidewalks and streets, clean and safe parks, safety and protection by our fire and police, and communications, just to name a few. Sadly, most of Wylie’s homes are and will be incapable of breaking even for the City’s outlay of cash just to maintain their very existence for a very long time in the future.
Many citizens complained about the high taxes in Wylie for years finally to the point that the City Council relented. In 2013 your taxes will go down by 1 cent per $100 valuation of your home. For those self-centered people who laughed at that idea, I hope they never know what it is like to be one of those students swiping their free or reduced meal card in the food line. To be honest, I hope they take that extra pizza and shove it.
Throughout the years, our Mayor Eric Hogue has lamented on the high taxes. Yet he still perpetuated the problem and refused to address the citizen’s pleas to lower taxes, that is until this year when I heard he lost his job and discovered that, gee there might be something to this lower tax thing after all. I certainly don’t wish Mayor Hogue ill will because the struggle of losing a job and having to seek a new one in this economy truly sucks, however I suspect he has already found something else or will soon because he has some incredible assets to bring to the table. Yet I cannot somehow help but feel this was probably a good thing to knock one predisposed or perhaps nudged into elitist thinking down a notch.
Since we were successful in getting the City of Wylie to respond to our pleas to begin the process of reducing taxes over the next several years, we now continue on the task to get them to understand what previous councils have done to this City. Up until the last year or so, council still approved developer after developer traipsing in front of them and proposing smaller lot sizes so they can increase their profits. For some reason this group of councilmembers, thought to possess some sort of choice intellectual standard, were sitting on their brains and routinely passing whatever it was the developers wanted, nary any compunction whatsoever.
Councilmembers like David Goss and Bennie Jones abhorred the idea but were outvoted by the masses. Oh and the citizens lapped it all up because after all, these oh so brilliant people we voted in had our collective backs or so we thought. It wasn’t until a year ago when Councilwoman Diane Culver stepped in and stopped one developer dead in their tracks. She had the audacity to tell the developer they could have the increased lots they were coveting, however she stipulated the percent of homes that had to be specific sizes. I think I heard an audible gasp from some of the Councilmembers as they stared at her with gaping mouths. Could she really do that? Absolutely. Finally, someone who gets it. We tell them how it’s going to be; they don’t get to tell us.
By showing that it is OK to push back, Wylie’s current leaders are making strong demands as to what they expect out of the little bit of land that is left in Wylie to build on. Good on them. By drawing in higher income families, we can draw in additional spending power, and draw in better quality retailers than that icky Ross store and a plethora of fast food chains. Increasing spending within our own city, rather than perpetuating the necessity to run to Firewheel or elsewhere for our shopping needs, increases tax dollars in our own city which equates in increased revenue to the City of Wylie.
Take the idea that we have the potential of bringing in better quality of homeowners who own homes that don’t cost the City of Wylie money because they are appraised at more than the $250K magic number, and couple that with increased spending power of wealthier people which nets the City an increase in tax revenue, and attach that to the fact that we learned in the previous week that the Woodbridge center did not live up to their end of the bargain when the WEDC negotiated getting them here, which has now created a windfall of $6M less the City of Wylie has to abate out of our tax revenue over the next 6 years, and we have a potential recipe for success. Let’s hope our City leaders don’t fall back into their previous habits and spend it all willy nilly.
Lowering the taxes certainly will not help those lower income families in Wylie who are renting, but not all of them are renters. Lowering the taxes enough to pay for a pizza for a family of 4 each month and multiplying that times 4 as we continue to ask the City of Wylie to lower our taxes by 1 cent every year for the next 4 years, will go a long way in assisting Wylie’s low income families.
Helping to stop the influx of low income families to Wylie is key in assisting WISD’s plight. We certainly cannot push these lower income types out of Wylie. Such a practice would be akin to sending every illegal back to their country, which is not possible, nor prudent, and hardly humane. Drawing in higher income types to help offset what has already been done is the key. As a community, we assist them by lowering their taxes, taking steps to improve their home values, and as long as they are not of the mindset that they deserve a free ride, they should grow and prosper. We must remember that their responsibility does not fall on all citizens directly, but indirectly by the policies of our leaders.
There are some basic economic principles which are important for our leaders to consider. We know that home values increase when taxes are decreased. We know that the more people spend within Wylie, the more tax revenue the City will have. We know that reducing taxes means more money to spend in citizen’s pockets. We know that in order to draw a better quality of retailer, we need to prove our home values and income levels can sustain them.
Now if the WEDC is touting a median income in Wylie of $86K for a household of 4 in order to woo new businesses here, then something doesn’t jive with that 31% of students on the free or reduced fee meal plan. That would mean there are some very high incomes offsetting all these very low incomes. Or that would mean that almost every household in Wylie with two incomes make roughly $43K each per year, or in a one income household make $80K per year. I don’t see that as a viable likelihood, especially with the increasing numbers of students qualifying for the reduced fee meal plan. Again, something doesn’t make sense with the quality of retail. Either our demographics cannot support anything better than discount stores, or the WEDC isn’t doing their job. This is a situation that has to be considered in order for Wylie to get any looksees from better quality retailers, hence the probable reason we have a glut of retail focused on serving lower income households in Wylie.
I know there is always a facet of naysayers who claim this problem in WISD is in someone else’s backyard. We cannot blame the low income students on all those communities whose children attend Wylie but don’t actually live in Wylie. If you think that the students in Sachse, Murphy, and Parker are bringing down the median income levels of the students in Wylie, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Though the good schools in Wylie are certainly a draw, it is incumbent on the City of Wylie to uphold some basic standards in order to help build the basis of what feeds into WISD and not the other way around.