Wylie is Rolling in Dough

At the last Wylie City Council meeting, City Manager Mindy Manson showed council a preliminary budget during the work session. The chart they used this year shows the tax rate making a steep drop over the past five years. Interesting.

Mayor Eric Hogue and a few council members love to toss around the false narrative that they are reducing our taxes and this chart is a great representation of that. Or is it?

Though the city may have reduced the tax rate, the highest in all of Collin County I might add, this chart and the false narrative only perpetuate a mass misconception. It is easy to pass this chart around because they know that taxpayers get confused about how their taxes work.

When the city council tells you they lowered your taxes, they mean they lowered your tax rate. From the chart above, they only lowered it five cents between 2012 and 2017.  The city representatives love to show this chart, because it makes them feel like heroes for making you think your taxes are taking a nosedive. Except they aren't.

Now let's compare the Wylie City estimated taxes from 2012 through 2017 using an average-priced home as our basis. More to the point, using my home.

This is the reality of that alleged tax reduction that Mayor Hogue and council members like to pretend they gave you. These numbers are the estimated taxes that came directly from my notices of appraised value from 2012 through 2017. Does this look like a tax reduction to you? Obviously it's not.

The taxes paid to Wylie continually increase because the city council refuses to adopt the effective tax rate each year. Instead, they opt to take more money from taxpayers, and pretend they are giving you a tax break by lowering the rate slightly. Certainly not enough to offset the massive increase.

Now some people try to blame the Collin County Central Appraisal District for their increasing taxes. Except, this entity only sets your home's appraisal value. Mostly they pull the number out of their behinds, but for the most part, the appraisals have pretty much been lower than what I could have sold my home for each year. The fact is, scarcity, among other things, has caused home values to increase dramatically over the past couple years and is expected to again in the coming year.

That said, each year, the appraisal district announces the effective tax rate, which is supposed to be adopted by city council to help offset the tax burden on homeowners. The effective tax rate helps keep your payment out the door generally the same as the previous year. Clearly, that is not what Wylie has been doing. Instead they have been taking your money and touting a fake tax reduction.

Now lets take a look at the difference between our current tax rate of .8489 and if Wylie were to lower our taxes by ten cents to .7489 this year. That 2017 payment of $1944.28  on my home, would be reduced to $1715.24, essentially rolling back to their 2015 budget. They could certainly live within those means, considering how much money they took in between 2012 and 2015, plus all the new property tax revenue on the anticipated 350 new homes as well as new businesses opening this year.

Now tell me again how Wylie isn't rolling in the dough?

Photo credit: Bazinga.com

Wylie Sister Entities - One is Not Like the Other

Guess what showed up in The Wylie News last Wednesday? Front cover, above the fold even. An article about how concerned citizens would be protesting the Wylie ISD board meeting last Monday, just like they protested at the city council meeting a couple weeks ago.

Except, they weren't. For anyone following the We the People Facebook page, or even Nextdoor, there was no discussion of a Wylie ISD protest. Still, the notice was worth sharing on social media to see just how many people are concerned about the school taxes. Precisely two people showed up.

So exactly how did this article make it into the paper then? As I've mentioned before, the newspaper often prints articles at the behest of Mayor Eric Hogue. They are, after all, the "official city newspaper of Wylie", a title bestowed upon them by a council vote each year.

So think back to the city council meeting last week. At the end of the budget work session, Mayor Hogue was sure to mention that people need to protest the other three taxing entities: Collin College, Collin County and Wylie ISD. Conveniently, the next day the newspaper article hit the newsstand.

So if Collin College and Collin County have been routinely lowering their tax rates to citizens, what entity do you think Mayor Hogue was referring to? That's right, Wylie ISD. There's nothing quite like your mayor playing adversary against the school district.

Now think back to The Wylie News article mentioned above. If there had been zero discussion among protesters about attending the Wylie ISD meeting, why, then, did the newspaper publish this article saying there was?

I suppose the newspaper might have attempted to insinuate a protest, but that does not represent journalistic integrity, making it highly doubtful that the newspaper just made up this story. For this story to go to print, they would have been approached by someone feeding them information; or misinformation as it were. I wonder, who would gain from taking some of the tax heat off of the city and placing it on the school district? Obviously, a rhetorical question.

What came out of this faux Wylie ISD protest is the ability to show people the difference between a Board of Education that behaves as a partner with citizens and which sits quietly and thoughtfully through public comment, versus an unruly and unprofessional Wylie City Council, that seems confounded as to the definition of "public comment" and how to behave through it. Here is an assessment of my last two meeting experiences, as I watched how other citizens were treated by both entities.

From the moment citizens walk into a city council meeting, they may be stared down or just plain ignored, unless they seek to approach someone. Certainly, our mayor is not working the crowd in the entryway or welcoming citizens into the chamber. When you walk in, it is reverent, like a courtroom. When you speak to council during a work sessions, some sit with their fist propping up their head in what appears to be boredom, some attempt to shut you down while you are talking, sometimes they invite staff to do a mic grab and they even debate your point of view.

Contrast that starkly with Wylie ISD. Once a citizen enters, they are hard pressed to avoid a practical bear-hug from Superintendent Dr. David Vinson, If he doesn't go in for the hug, he is happy to chat with everyone and make them feel welcome. There are smiles all around and some of the other board members also work the crowd, as do staff. Everyone there does their best to make citizens feel welcomed. When you walk in, it feels warm and lively. When you speak to the board, they actively listen. At this particular board meeting, when the citizens finished speaking, one board member gave heart-felt encouragement to concerned citizens.

Notice if you will, the difference in how the public is treated by these sister entities:

Wylie City Council Work Session http://wylietx.swagit.com/play/06132017-1265

Wylie ISD Meeting (video to be updated once Wylie ISD publishes it to their website).

Turns out the crap bomb that Mayor Hogue had intended to spatter on Wylie ISD, when he suggested taxpayers should protest the other taxing entities, instead exploded on him. So not only does Hogue's mayoral legacy include increasing taxes over the past four years, soon to be five, but it also includes his inhospitable council meetings. He does, after all, lead by example.

Many sisters get along very well, but every now and then there's that petty family member that tries to cause trouble. It's too bad, too, because the Wylie ISD trustees show us how easy it is to have grace and compassion for those who are affected by their decisions. I have never witnessed this at a council meeting.

Image credit: White Christmas

Wylie Council Admonishes a Concerned Citizen During Public Comment

Shame on Councilman Jeff Forrester, Councilwoman Diane Culver, Mayor Pro Tem Keith Stephens and Mayor Eric Hogue for admonishing this concerned citizen over his questions about staff and PD headcount. 

This poor man didn't even get to finish his statements before it quickly became the council show. Forrester led a several minute admonishment, followed by Culver who went on a several minute diatribe, followed by Hogue who drafted the Chief of Police to step in. 

The man's concerns turned into stern admonishment for an extended period of time, as he stepped to the side and waited to get the floor again. And our smug Mayor looked on. 

This image beautifully portrays what happened during public comment of the council budget work session tonight. When it was over, for council to welcome this man back to meetings doesn't erase the ill-mannered behavior that was displayed by the majority. 

Very disrespectful!

Wylie Taxpayer Demands

CAFR is an acronym for Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and it is where the "real" numbers of city business are held. Well, sort of. You'll be hard pressed to find out exact expenditures but you will see overall budgeting and totals.

Let's tackle one sneaky way the city increases your taxes paid to them.

As you can see from the image, the city breaks down their tax rate into two sections - debt service and basic rate. How taxes are supposed to work is that when debt is paid down, the city should reduce the basic rate by that amount. Except, the City of Wylie has been raking that extra dough in, thus knowingly increasing our taxes.

This can be witnessed when comparing the last ten years of tax revenue by source. According to the 2016 CAFR, Wylie's Ad Valorem (a fancy way of saying property tax) increased 107.2%, Sales Tax increased 111.3%, and franchise taxes increased 39.7%.

In fact, the total tax revenue increase since 2007 has been 101%.

So it begs to be asked, wasn't the city supposed to take the tax burden off of homeowners, once they started realizing increases in sales and franchise tax revenue from all the businesses moving in? Well, that is how a well-run city is supposed to do it anyway.

When we look at excess fund balances on Wylie's 2015 CAFR, the ending fund balance was $29,183,358. Since they only banked $631,077 over the previous year they likely spent the excess tax revenue windfall from increased property, sales and franchise taxes.

On Wylie's 2016 CAFR, the ending fund balance is $32,335,323 and they banked $3,151,965 over the previous year, which likely means they put the $2.9 million property, sales and franchise tax revenue windfall in the bank.

Notice how Wylie's financial position improves from year to year. So much for taxing entities being not for profit. 

With all those extra funds Wylie is realizing, it shouldn't be a stretch to the imagination to see the sandbagging that takes place during the budget season year after year. This is done to purposely keep our tax rate artificially high. The funds are either spent or put in the bank; they don't just magically disappear.

Below is a fine piece of sandbagging presented by our city manager for the 2016 budget. Note that each year the City Manager presents a budget that starts out lower in revenue and ends dramatically higher. 

Expenses conveniently end at a deficit (for example in 2016 the city manager's office overspent by $35K and combined services/general overspent by $393K). Things like public safety, urban development and streets start high and end low as those numbers are sandbagged in the budget.

An example of this can be seen in public safety where they sandbagged with over $18.1 million budgeted but actually only spent $17.5 million.

Last week some of Wylie's astute taxpayers met and studied the CAFR. The result of this meeting is that they identified that the city has more than enough funds in their budget to cover a healthy tax decrease. 

Because of this, Wylie taxpayers are demanding the budget be "rightsized" this year by:
  • Adopting the effective tax rate
  • Promising to reduce the basic rate as debt service is paid off from here forward
  • Giving taxpayers an additional reduction of ten cents, which is in line with many of the North Texas cities similar in size
Nothing less will be acceptable.

So while the city council and administrators pick themselves up from the floor,  here are a few other requests.

  • The city manager should come to council with a reasonable budget, abruptly ending the sandbag show, or she should be fired
  • A contrite council needs to vote  for the substantial tax break outlined above
  • Mayor Eric Hogue needs to apologize for bending us all over for years, while on his watch

Problem solved.

How Many Wylie Businesses Haven't Paid City Taxes?

I feel the need to revisit the Lawyer's Title deal again, because someone needs to.

Recall in my post Wylie Good Old Boy System Must Go, a claim was made at a council meeting that the City of Wylie tax was left off of the Collin County Central Appraisal District (CCAD) tax bill, for the Lawyers Title property between 2009- 2013.

The owner of Lawyers Title is Baron Cook, who's business, Wylie Industrial Court Dev Ltd., actually owns the Lawyers Title property.

During that council meeting, presumably because the situation was too confounding for anyone at the city to figure out, and because it would cost the city additional legal fees, council decided to forgive the interest and fees on what Cook owed on behalf of his company. The result of the meeting was that he had to pay his back taxes sans fees. That's great.

I wonder then, why previous years were ignored at this meeting? That's right. The Freedom of Information Act request I made to CCAD came back showing the city taxes for 2007 and 2008 were also left off those bills. Interesting.

Might I also point out here that it was intimated in the council meeting that Wylie Industrial Court Dev Ltd. was not receiving the tax bills because they were going to the realtor who was renting the space at the time. My, but that is interesting considering the address on these statements went directly to the business address, and not the Lawyers Title address.

I am left with so many questions as to exactly how such an omission at the CCAD could occur. Did these taxes actually go unpaid? Why didn't the city spend time researching the issue prior to placing it on the agenda, instead of just taking someone's word for it? Is the city really that derelict in their duty as fiduciaries on behalf of all taxpayers? Just how many other businesses in Wylie have missed paying city taxes? Exactly how far back does the city portion of taxes go unpaid on that property? Who exactly were on the boards at CCAD during this time frame? Was there some type of cronyism going on?

All valid questions, especially when we are researching the city's wasteful spending of our tax dollars.

I suppose we'll never know the full extent of this situation, and just how many other businesses have been affected by this CCAD omission of taxes. For me, it's definitely up there in the things that make you go hmmm.

Photo credit: pinsdaddy.com

Welcome New Readers

Taxes are some serious business, and I've picked up quite a few new readers because of them. On Facebook, someone even went so far as to pay to promote my Wylie's Good Old Boy System Must Go post. Whoever you are, thank you. That was awesome.

Welcome to all my new readers who are incensed over Wylie's ridiculous tax rate. I've been here fighting for you for many years. Sometimes I'm snarky, sometimes I'm serious and sometimes I even crack myself up, but all of the time I genuinely care. .

I've been blogging about the situations in Wylie for a long time and I have truly heard it all. I've been threatened, called names, accused of being biased (um ya, this is a blog full of my personal opinions), and told I need to run for office. I've also been fed information. A lot. And what I love most is when people recognize me around town and reach out saying they are big fans. For this I am humbly and eternally grateful.

Through the years I've had my name on and off this blog, depending upon where I worked and how uncomfortable my employer was about my having a blog. It really doesn't matter what my name is, those who need to know who I am, do.

As a blogger, you have to stick to your convictions, question everyone's motive, form a thick layer of skin and most important, you have to be particularly fearless. That's me.

As regurgitated threats to shut me up make their rounds yet again, let me introduce myself so as to steal their thunder. I am the Gen X product of the 70s and 80s, instant gratification, sex, drugs and rock and roll, "me" generation. I had a mohawk and put my hair up with Elmer's glue and hairspray because there was no such thing as Got 2B Glued back in the day. I admit freely that I was a wild child, all of which I have blogged about at one time or another. I am utterly human.

I have shared why I became fervently pro-life in Punk Life, after holding my best friend's hand during her abortion, while watching nurses carry what looked like a pickle jar with baby bits floating in bloody liquid out of the room.

I have also shared my stories on being bullied, abused and raped. No pity. It's all character building.

Hells, I've even blogged about going through the change of life in Menopause: Satan's Plan V. I just don't know how much more open I can make my life than that. All these experiences have made me an incredibly strong, opinionated and loyal woman with a wicked sense of humor.

I know very few people with the smalls to publicly display their skeletons, so for those who don't like me and hope to discredit me, knock yourself out casting the first stone.

I will, however, continue to write this blog because of the strong sense of justice I feel.

So on with the merriment as I begin digging into Wylie's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and show you how you have been outright lied to about our tax rate going down and about where our money is going.

Why I Started This Blog

I am of the opinion that Mayor Eric Hogue only remains mayor because city administrators do a great job of telling people that they cannot possibly hold down a full-time job while performing the part of mayor. This, of course, is simply not true.

The fact is, Hogue has made the position of mayor the Hogue Show. One where he orchestrates his pet project, magic, and attempts to direct influence over the local newspaper, but they don't seem to be getting very far these days. You see, the city screwed themselves in that arena after they created a position for the reporter and hired her on. Shortly after, they became unhappy with the new reporter. Now the Wylie News reporter has been relegated to the back 40 instead of holding a seat at the dais like they used to.

In the past, Mayor Eric Hogue would have made sure he attended a controversial city council meeting, but at the last meeting, where there was a planned tax protest, he was a no show. Why?

This was a complete departure from yesteryear's Hogue who relished an opportunity to mastermind the demise of an opponent, or at least shut them down during public discussion. Tactics used in the past include making "clarifications" while the citizen is speaking, so as to use up some of their allotted three minutes, and preempting a complaint because he knew what would be said from the form the person filled out. Another tactic is that after citizens speak without filling out the form, a staff member traipses after them asking them to fill out the form under the pretense of following up. In reality, they are identifying who the problem citizens are.

So instead of staying home and dealing with the protest, Hogue hid in Las Vegas and left Mayor Pro Tem Keith Stephens to deal with the protest. Hogue certainly did not have to attend the conference in Vegas. He could have sent someone else, or he could have let WEDC members represent Wylie. Then again, maybe he was visiting his magic pal David Copperfield again on the taxpayer's dime. It's no secret Copperfield has an ongoing show there and that magic is Hogue's pet project.

Why did Hogue not show up for something as important as a tax rate protest? Showing up for that meeting could have proved detrimental to his "legacy" should he read as uncaring, disingenuous or arrogant to the protesters, all of which were very real possibilities. Instead, he left council to their own devices, and they showed their true colors.

Some of the attendees told me that from the looks of the faces of those sitting at the dais, they felt the only ones who cared and took notes were Councilman Toby Wallis, DMV and Councilman Jeff Forrester. They felt like the others were totally disinterested in what was being said, including City Manager Mindy Manson. They felt let down, like council would be happy to show them the door and replace them with people who have the money and don't mind paying the high taxes. They did not feel like the majority of council were genuinely interested.

Was the citizen input really lost on them? What do they need to do to get their attention? Do they need to line up 100 people to speak? Council really had a prime opportunity to see first hand just how much their actions have hurt the people they claim to represent, and those who attended and spoke felt like they simply did not care.

The result is that citizens, who would rather spend their time coaching little league and attending their own functions are now forced to speak out against the steadily increasing taxes.

This is all part of the larger problem with city leaders. The prevailing attitude is that people are applying for these seats and running for council so they can work their pet project or add it to their resume. How does that help anyone but themselves? What do citizens need to do to be heard?

I started a blog.

Blog naysayers, who are usually friends of those I am reporting on, attempt to discredit me. They claim I complain but offer no solutions. I call BS on that. Through the years I have offered more solutions than I can count. The problem is, our city officials are under the misconception that only their opinion matters. They start out consulting taxpayers then they fall into believing their decisions represent what they "think" citizens want.  Their excuse is that if they don't hear from anyone then it's house rules. Soon, the freshly appointed or elected member slowly erodes into what's good for the cause, rather than what's good for the masses.

They also claim I should run for council or a board or else I have no right to complain. Through the years I have sacrificed more personal time dedicated to making the city a better place than any of those sitting on boards. The problem is our city leaders don't want to hear solutions which they did not come up with on their own. As with many politicians, they remain closed-minded, despite lip service claiming otherwise.

This dynamic led to the exchange I had with Kevin Finnell, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustments, who sought me out through my blog's Facebook page. The argument he made is that anyone who complains isn't worthy of attention when they don't sit on one of the few, select boards.

By seeking a private citizen out to admonish, he does a discredit to the position. Authoring this blog is not an official public position. I was not elected or appointed to do this. This is my personal blog full of my personal opinions that are protected by the Second Amendment, I might add. The fact that he felt comfortably within his right to dress me down and even cuss, is a perfect example of the mentality we have seen displayed by many of Wylie's leaders.

The exchange with this board member is eerily reminiscent of when I was verbally accosted by a Planning and Zoning commission member.  Well at least the P&Z woman didn't cuss at me like this man did. Yet, this woman along with Mayor Hogue, is the reason I started this blog many years ago. It is one of the precursors to the city adopting a Code of Ethics. Perhaps the city should remind their board members of that.

The harsh reality is, change in Wylie is on the horizon. Wylie is too large to continue on with the good old boy, slap the back, handshake deals. It will be change where citizens step up and run for office because they want to help the citizens, not because of some special pet project. 

I started this blog to get citizens engaged, which is precisely what an actively engaged citizen looks like. Too bad this definition does not match that of city leaders.

Image credit: Austin Monthly

Wylie's Good Old Boy System Must Go

During budget discussion two years ago, wasn't it Mayor Eric Hogue who answered a question from Councilman William Whitney about lowering the tax rate thanks to a revenue windfall the city would receive. With increasing property values Hogue stated, "Just because we can lower the tax rate doesn't mean we should." Nice. This from the man who would just as soon turn Wylie into a police state. Again, it was Whitney who questioned during budget talks about adding four more PD slots last year, why the city would entertain adding them despite the inability to fill four existing PD slots. In an offhanded comment, Hogue stated he would like to see an officer, "on every corner" in Wylie. Alarming.

The WEDC Website has been like this for about a year
While Wylie's citizens are complaining about the high tax rate here, the highest in all of Collin County, one city entity lurks in the background, hoping nobody will take notice of their coveted playground.

The Wylie Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is charged with bringing new business to Wylie, and they have quite the hefty budget to do so.

Recent complaints have been made on the Nextdoor social media site complaining about WEDCs budget adjustment, listing a $9770.45 expense spent on Mavs season tickets.

One angry taxpayer wrote:
"Our tax dollars at work...page 8."
"I think it's politics. Always scratching someones back or palm. :("
And another:
"That is a waste of money. Maybe they need to replace the entire committee."
And this:
"Wow! Our tax dollars at work. Wonder if we demand tickets to a game what they will say. We should go to a city council meeting and ask."
And finally this:
"Cowboys tickets please! Deplorable."
You see, people are sick of being bent over while city employees have a grand time on our dollar. Just like when Hogue took his pet project - magic to Washington DC last year, on the taxpayer dime. Also attending was City Manager Mindy Manson, presumably in tow to take advantage of mayoral photo ops with David Copperfield and House Rep. Pete Sessions (REP). Yes, this was touted as city business.

So who exactly is the WEDC taking to the Mavs games anyway? It's not like we have a plethora of new industrial businesses or headquarters that are being wooed to town. This is Wylie, for crying out loud. Sheesh.

Though WEDC Executive Director Sam Satterwhite is a city employee, he seems to fall under the radar most of the time.

Another nifty incentive for Satterwhite is that he gets to office where he likes. It seems that's how the fashionable EDCs do it around town, and Wylie is no different in wasting taxpayer funds on rent. Now there's a way to save money so taxpayers can get a tax rate reduction.

Oh, did I mention that Satterwhite was arrested in March 2009 of a DUI and sentenced to 60 days, ultimately receiving a 12 month probation? According to the city employee handbook, he should have been fired, but Mayor Eric Hogue worked hard to keep him on staff.

Still, according to Councilwoman Diane Culver, she told me Satterwhite is, "The devil we need". Really? I guess the city administrators and council members strongly believe they cannot live without his stellar ability to develop and bring new business to Wylie. Please.

In all fairness, the WEDC is tagged with bringing industrial business, and helping pave the way for large complex developers, but the activity surrounding this need is also directly responsible for enticing the fine array of chicken shacks and fast food.

To understand why its time to clean house at the WEDC, you would have to understand the cast of seedy characters who fall into and out of various boards and elected positions around Wylie.

Add caption
The WEDC offices in a cushy sandbox at Lawyers Title located at 250  Highway 78, conveniently with playmate Baron Cook, who plays escrow manager by day and owner of  Wylie Industrial Development Corporation by night. His company happens to own the Lawyers Title building where WEDC rent space out of the back.

Interestingly, the Lawyers Title checks list an Inwood Bank address in Garland so as not to link themselves with WEDC Board President Marvin Fuller, the Wylie Inwood branch president. Kind of looks a bit like city rent indirectly benefits a WEDC board member. Cute.

Now keep this all straight, because it starts getting tricky here.

Cook recently petitioned Mayor Hogue to get the city to release him from paying back taxes, penalties, interest and attorney fees to the tune of $47,541.71, to which Hogue personally requested the item be placed on the city council agenda.

At the April 11, 2017 meeting Cook claimed the previous tenant in that building fell in arrears, and when they moved out, nobody knew the situation until the Collin County Central Appraisal District (CAD) sent Cook a tax bill in 2010.

At the same time, in 2010 Cook's Lawyers Title company moved into the very same building. He claims the CAD made an error and did not bill him for the City of Wylie portion of his tax bill from 2009-2013. Except, Cook has owned that building since 2003. So you mean to tell me that nobody in the office realized taxes weren't being paid? I wonder how it would play out if homeowners tried that excuse on the city? 

In feigned ignorance to the tax man, Cook claimed Keller Williams was responsible for the tax bill as part of their lease. But that doesn't explain why there was an issue from the time they moved in until 2013. 

Then there's that little business as to why this didn't come up again since 2013? Cook claims both he and CAD dropped the ball.

I suppose we'll never know why any of this happened, but hey, turns out when you want to get out of a tax bill to the city, and you are part of the back scratch fever club, you get a pass. City council voted unanimously (Councilwoman Culver was absent) to give Cook a break on back interest and fees and he only ended up paying $39,018.54 a tidy savings. Obviously Cook knew that if he threatened to fight the bill, the city would capitulate to the pressure of oppressive city lawyer fees, which is exactly what they did. Benevolent.

If Cook's name sounds familiar, it should. He's the one who got that sweetheart deal selling his own land to Wylie ISD, while sitting as a trustee. Yup, to you and me that's McMillen Junior High and Davis Intermediate.

About now it probably shouldn't come as a shock that the same situation presented itself with WISD trustee Mitch Herzog as well. Indeedy do, his boss and father-in-law, Richard Parker's company purchased WISD land at a steal, combined it with a tract they owned, and sold it for around a cool million to the smallest hotel I've ever seen, yonder on 544. Never mind the inconsequential fact that he was also sitting as a WEDC board member who inadvertently helped facilitate the deal. Well then there's that.

Hang on folks, because the fun doesn't stop there. Another titillating factoid is that WEDC board member Todd Wintters ran for city council and was elected! That's right, that conflict of interest hot mess walked right into his seat, along with Mayor Pro Tem Keith Stephens, completely unopposed. As you saw in May's election, Stephens tippie-toed in again, totally unopposed. With these two, the Wylie First Baptist Church contingency was completed in that move, as they have infiltrated every facet of the city with their people. That was the day the FBC officially started to work my last nerve.

Oh, and did I mention that the WEDC holds their board meetings in their office at the Lawyers Title building at 6:00 a.m. so citizens won't show up? That was the nifty change they made after getting slapped by the Texas Ethics Commission for holding closed meetings. Open Meetings Act thumb-nose. So much for transparency.

Seems to me like WEDC board members get more than their backs scratched as part of the good old boy club around town. Clearly, Wylie has gotten out of control and it is truly time to clean house. You just can't make this stuff up.

Wylie city council and mayor no longer trusted

With all the bad publicity surrounding the City of Wylie's high tax rate, there are a few activities of which are guaranteed to take place. Slowly creeping into the landscape are homes showing up on the real estate market. This recent uptick is largely a result of lender notices increasing monthly mortgage payments.

Already strapped from creeping payments over the past four years, homeowners who cannot handle the large increase anticipated this year will be forced to unload their houses as quickly as possible, even selling at reduced prices. This in turn will drive down property values as they scramble to get out from under a mortgage escrow payment they cannot handle.

This scenario is already taking place around town as new homes are showing up for sale in established neighborhoods. In my neighborhood alone, there are three new listings and the one next door to me was just reduced by $20K.

As taxes increase, families are being forced from their homes because they simply cannot afford the compounding mortgage payment increases year after year, a direct result of Wylie's bloated tax rate.

To let this situation foment, Wylie Mayor Eric Hogue comes across as unethical, unsympathetic and elitist as he sits at his isolated dais fortress, passing off tax increases as tax cuts four years running. It is insulting when he bemoans them like he is just one of the homeowners, yet does nothing to lower the burden.
Unwitting council members seem perplexed by the situation and are perpetuating this scam through these tiny incremental decreases.

The fact is, taxes have been dramatically escalating as the Collin County Central Appraisal District (CAD) continues to increase property valuations year after year. Though the market is partially responsible, the toxic combination of maxed out CAD appraisals and a mayor and city council who refuse to budge has made the past several years unbearable for taxpayers.

The council has banked on most people absorbing these increases year after year, which went relatively unnoticed as taxpayers wrongly believed they were altruistic in giving to Caesar. They failed to understand how city finances work and that Caesar was getting more than his fair share. It wasn't until the CAD started hitting taxpayers with 10% increases in property values that they took note. Last year it wasn't as painful though, because of the increase in homestead exemption, but this year there is no way to hide from the situation, which is why taxpayers are fuming.

Taxpayers are demanding the city adopt the effective tax rollback to lower our taxes this year, which Wylie has never done in modern times. Not only are taxpayers asking for a full rollback, but they want an additional few cents off as well. For the city, this is uncharted waters.

Still, it is important to note that though there have always been homes for sale in Wylie, the majority of homeowners are still here since the massive growth period between 2001 and 2010. These homeowners are still the type of people who can only afford their $130K-230K houses purchased during that time-frame. Between the lean years of 2010-2012, housing starts were very low and not much was happening in the market, but when developers came back to town starting in 2013, the market bounded. Though home values began steadily increasing, a magic wand wasn't waved to suddenly increase taxpayers' incomes. Property values have increased $60-80K since the boom but people's salaries haven't necessarily recovered from the sagging economy.

Another facet to this cruel and unusual tax punishment is that Wylie's council is starting to appear elitist. Their continued tax increase for four solid years means they are allowing, nay almost welcoming current homeowners to leave if they cannot afford the increase in taxes. In ignoring taxpayer pleas to dramatically lower the tax rate over the past four years, it says that our mayor and council would rather welcome seemingly new, wealthier homeowners who are unwittingly moving in and becoming disenfranchised. Hogue has escaped mass public scrutiny up until now, but that has likely come to an end with a whole new volunteer pool the new homes brought in, that may be willing to run against him if he doesn't get on the rollback train.

All a rollback means is that the city has to work within the same budget as the previous year. It doesn't mean taking funds from the rainy day fund either. It means towing the line on frivolous spending. With the revenue windfall they have been receiving from retail sales tax, that shouldn't be difficult for them to accomplish. They got us into this mess, they need to get us out.
2016 City of Wylie CAFR
It's not as if the city doesn't have any money, either. The fact is, the budget is already bloated with things like 200% 401K matching and unnecessary expense accounts. Does your employer match $2 for every $1 you put into your 401K, and provide you with a $1700 monthly car allowance? I didn't think so.

This powerful protest punch means that as communities are ignored, trust in government erodes. The council and mayor's new plight will be earning back lost trust. Not a great way to lead from behind.

As for mayor, he appears to be nothing more than a sadistic puppet master, toying with strings and hoping nobody notices. And to be completely honest, council isn't very well thought of either from comments on Nextdoor and Facebook.
"The appraised value is not the problem, it is the ridiculous high city and school tax we pay in Wylie. Wylie's city council and Mayor are out of control and yet we just re-elected the mayor without any opposition. Go figure."
Another sentiment:
"The WEDB and school Board are all crooks in my book. Why don't they just go door to door with a sack and collect cash. Would be faster."
The shameful truth is, people have lost respect for our city leaders:
"Just because businesses move in, doesn't mean my Disability Check is increasing. Guess the county/city want us old folks to move so they can grab hold of younger, higher paid, upwardly mobile citizens."
Just where did our mayor get his moxie and dancing monkeys from anyway? Oh yes, voters who rarely did due diligence in the past as they made selections based upon the good old boy system. Shamefully less than 4% routinely came out to vote through the years.

If there is any good news that can come out of this tax situation its that it seems likely the voting power is about to change hands from an apathetic group, to a population unafraid of combating the mayor and council.

Photo credit: visit grand forks

Citizens Appeal to Wylie City Council For Lower Tax Rate

Houston, we've got a problem. No, actually Wylie, Texas does.

Wylie's taxes are astronomical and have increased every year for the last five. This is serious business and even Dave Lieber of the Dallas Morning News took note at the city council meeting held tonight.

Dozens of citizens took time out of their busy schedule to protest, and a dozen stood up one after another to express their concern over an oppressive tax rate, the highest in all of North Texas.

Taxpayers spoke out against the practice of tossing a cent or two reduction at the rate each year, and refusing to adopt the effective tax rate thereby increasing taxes year after year. Speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting provided very compelling witness before a weary council.

Mayor Pro Tem Keith Stephens stood in for Mayor Eric Hogue, who was at a meeting in Las Vegas. Stephens tried to placate protesters by saying he is in the same boat as them. Though that excuse has worked in the past when the Mayor used it, Wylie's taxpayers are on to this scheme.

It is sad that Stephens provided rote "clarification" during public comment which included canned statements which have been repeated ad nauseum by the Mayor through the years. He stated that Wylie has lowered taxes for four years, to which Councilwoman Diane Culver clarified was actually five years, and he said that they would look into cutting the tax rate as long as it does not affect city services. These are two very misleading statements.

Stephens indicated the tax rate has been cut over the past several years, but every year the council has increased taxes. According to the Texas Comptroller's Office in Austin, when a city does not adopt the effective tax rate to offset increased appraisal values, they are increasing taxes. The City of Wylie definition provided by Stephens and Mayor Hogue in the past is in direct conflict with the Comptroller's office.

Additionally, city services will not be in jeopardy by adopting the effective tax rate. What adoption means is that the city agrees to run under the same budget as the previous year.

Since growth pays for grow, each new home and business create a budget windfall as new home builds over the past couple of years have been valued at considerably higher than the break-even. Additionally, the city's sales tax revenue continues to increase quarter after quarter, adding to the revenue windfall.

Sources report that the city's break-even point on homes is $240K. That means that homes with appraisals more than that are paying more than the cost of services provided for that property. Thanks to steadily increasing property values over the past five years, the city is no longer in a situation where homes are costing the city in services. Stephens' excuse simply doesn't pass muster.

I heard from handfuls of citizens outside the chamber that they intend to continue showing up at future meetings and budget work sessions, and will push their neighbors to show up as well. They all agreed that if the city doesn't lower our taxes considerably this go around, they will begin stepping up to run against council members until each one is picked off, except for Dr. Wallis who is new to the council this year.

Make no mistake, taxpayers are organized and they are serious.

Citizens Complain About Wylie Taxes

I don't know what is more disheartening, the fact that people are being priced out of their homes, or the fact that Wylie's taxing authorities are eerily silent on what is taking place within their city.

Here is an example of recent statements from taxpayers in Wylie.
"I filed & was rejected- I am a single mom & can't take off work to go to the protest, that's going to put me in more of a financial bind- i see a lot of comments here, but what can we do about it?"
"My payment went up almost 400 dollars a month due to taxes. Not to mention our insurance on our house got nearly a 700 dollar a year increase. We are moving because we are being priced out of our home."
In response.
"Yeah ours went up that .Much as well.. and based on this year's appraisal it's gonna go up another 300. Ridiculous."
And another.
"My appraisal went from $160K to $309K - How is that even possible!!!??"
Though this seems extreme, our situation is similar when we compare our very first assessment in 2001, when we built this house, with where it stands now.

Bravo for us, that our property values are doing well in this state, but I feel that is really more of a reflection on foreign investors gobbling up properties for several years.

Texas has been the international version of Fixer Upper, where homes have been bought, fixed up and resold or rented out. The other issue North Texas is combating is the desire to bring headquarters in from other states, juxtaposed with the lack of housing on the market. Everybody and their brother, and his in-laws and their second cousin, twice removed want to live here it seems.

Meanwhile, developers are still cramming and jamming homes on every postage stamp-sized parcel they can, and the city's development activities are finally catching up with them, prodding property values along.

For those of us who bought our homes ages ago, we're going to make a killing when we sell. But it doesn't mean we'll be able to find something on the other side of the sales equation, so we are digging in.

The State of the City may look rosy, but the scarcity of homes for sale means bidding wars ensue, leaving us with the situation we are in. Our goes-outta is quickly trumping our goes-inta.

Property values have been both artificially and organically lifted, and greedy taxing entities have been sitting fat and happy while people didn't miss the siphoning. The end result - it is only now when pocketbooks are being ritually emptied, that people are taking notice. This situation had to lead somewhere.

Though the taxes aren't set in stone yet, as people have until May 31st to protest their property assessment with the Collin County Central Appraisal District, it seems eerily quiet around the city and school district.

At the end of the day, not much is going to change on the home front because our property values and taxes are still going to increase, and these homeowners will still be dealing with increasing monthly mortgage escrow payments and difficult decisions of moving or losing their homes.

Will someone please tell me this isn't the end result of living the "Wylie Way". Surely, our city and school leaders can do better than this.

Image credit: Movoto Foundation

What you don't see matters in Wylie taxes and budget

I would like to say I had a little something to do with the virtual uproar on Nextdoor over Wylie's tax rate, I cannot. Interestingly, discussion seems to have taken on a life all its own, as one thread has over 250 posts.

Perhaps I have given a little push and plus on discussion inadvertently, as citizens come across my blog posts about our tax rate. It's not like I haven't been blogging about these topics for the past five years, or anything.

That said, let me provide fair warning that people are fairly grumpy about the tax rate. Add to that the increase of property values Collin County Central Appraisal District (CAD) approved yet again this year, and you can bet your sweet bippy that fairly grumpy is tame compared to his brother, downright huffy.

Indeed, many of Wylie's taxpayers are huffy that their taxes have increased dramatically over the past four years. They're organizing a protest as I write.

One statement I read from fellow taxpayer looks a little something like this:
"One thing that confuses me on that post. "they are spending it like drunken sailors". What exactly are they spending it on? I'm sorry but Wylie is not the prettiest city in the area. I don't notice any over the top glamorous buildings. Landscaping has to start to look like a field before it's touched. I don't see an abundance of city vehicles. Most of the schools look outdated (from the outside). Public art and city parks are mediocre at best. Roads are in fair condition but still a lot of improvements and expansion is needed. So I'm, confused on what they are spending it on.

Not arguing that we're not getting screwed, I just can't see where all this money is going if we are being taxed too high. Because it sure doesn't show anywhere."
Totally on point. Can I just say that I love this person? They summed up in 136 words or less, what I've been saying for years. What exactly is the city spending our tax revenue on, especially when growth pays for growth? Any new fire and police and their digs should have been paid for by revenue growth each year. It's not like we haven't had it since Woodbridge Crossing came to town. You know, that little compound on 544 that contains Target and Homegoods.

To address the comment in the quote above on schools, allow me to give credit where credit is due. The schools have nothing to do with city funds and frankly, WISD has done a great job of updating the schools with the latest technology and programs. Though they don't rollback the tax rate, the additional taxes they spend each year have put WISD on the map, and are a large reason why people are moving to Inspiration and other new communities that attend Wylie schools. There are real, tangible results that can be seen in test scores, school ratings and stellar students. Though our ISD tax rate is high, it's not the highest in North Texas, and our district has other extenuating factors related to funding. When we begin discussion on lowering their tax rate, we will have to tread carefully so as not to cut off our nose to spite our face. I suspect their time is coming as well, but for now my focus is on the city.

The city holds the second largest chunk of our consternation, and as was pointed out in the quote above, there just aren't that many tangible things we are getting out of it. OK, so they donated some land to Collin College, but our taxes are going to increase over that entity as well.

So, what exactly does a drunken sailor look like? Though the amount the city gets pales in comparison to WISD, the city gets other revenue, like a portion of sales tax from all those chicken shacks on 544 and 78. In fact, I can only recall one or two times our quarterly sales tax revenue has not increased over the past several years. It's reported in the Wylie News every quarter.

Why are people huffy, you ask? This year turns out to be the perfect storm, and to say I'm not tickled pink about it would be an outright lie. Especially since I have dedicated so much of my personal time to this blog and to politics.

To start, legacy homeowners are getting squeezed with CADs valuation increases year after year, bringing them only somewhat closer to fair market with the near 10% increase this year. To be honest, even if I fought my increase, it doesn't stop it from going up the next several years.  It only delays the inevitable. Meanwhile, sales prices of homes in the area continue to go up thanks to scarcity. There simply aren't enough homes on the market, and the moment a house sells a new CAD benchmark is set.

Also, people may lose their homes as they become priced out. Homeowners of recently built houses, who paid taxes their first year based upon unimproved land, are now getting notices from their mortgage companies, increasing the escrow portion of their payment dramatically to cover the land and improvement (their house). Plus, they are finding out their property value increased nearly 10%, and, as you can imagine, some may not be able to afford the increased monthly payment. Will we see another wave of foreclosures like we did from 2002-2005? Well I suppose that's one way to lower property values and ultimately our taxes, because that's exactly what it did, too.

Still, what about those who don't have a mortgage? Their tax rate increased 9.7% but I'll bet their annual pay increase wasn't that much.

The most important aspect of this tax equation lies with the Wylie tax rate. The names and faces rarely change, only the date does. So here's how I predict the song and dance will go when the budget makes its debut in a few weeks.

The city manager and finance manger will bring a preliminary budget reflecting some horrifying numbers that show revenue cannot possibly gel with liabilities. That's because the budget consists of make-believe numbers.

What they don't go over in detail is the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which is where the real action takes place. As you can see in the images below, the line item worthy of note every year is "Non current liabilities - due in more than one year". For instance, in 2012 there was $108,995,761. In the current budget there is $103,932,269.

In what I call the second phase of the budget, the horrifying expenses are brought into seemingly respectable numbers and everyone brings out the virtual baseball bat to beat themselves on the back with for the great job they did balancing those fictitious numbers. Meanwhile, in phase three, taxpayers will be handed a few cent reduction, our taxes will still increase overall, and they'll be congratulated for delivering us from a budget crisis. Right about here I'm rolling my eyes. No, seriously.

This 15 minute video explains the concept fairly well. The point of the developing protests in Wylie is that people are on to the scheme. The city is not in jeopardy of running out of money if we push them for a full roll-back to the effective tax rate this year. In fact, they will not run out of money if we also push for a reduction beyond that of our tax rate by a couple pennies. The former is absolutely doable; the latter is a bit inconceivable considering the long and quasi-entertaining budget song and dance history. I imagine there would be a bit of melodrama from the city over giving taxpayers both.

Still, as in previous years, they have excuses readied for taxpayers who complain about the rate. They will nod their heads in agreement, and claim they are paying taxes just like us. They will placate us into thinking they are just as upset. At the end of the day, just as in years past, they will shimmy by like Solid Gold dancers with their canned narrative on growth, road improvements, police and fire headcount, raises and a public safety building overhaul, which is certainly needed but can be handled in other ways.

As a side note, with regard to PD headcount, the city placed an additional four PD in their budget this time last year, though they still hadn't filled a handful of spots with viable candidates. Former Councilman William Whitney picked up that torch, which was quickly extinguished by Mayor Eric Hogue, who publicly pooh poohed him. Yup, it happened just that way last year.

In an ideal world, it would be great to know that our city council members understand the concepts and truly dig into the CAFR, which has proven to be a grey entity floating above their heads for years. In an ideal world, they would vehemently lead the fight on lowering our tax rate and stand with us rather than against us.

Unfortunately, the legacy our mayor, city manager and past and present councils are creating, is that of a city that freely empties our pockets, and I have every confidence this will continue unless taxpayers stand up to them.

Image credit: Global Marine Drilling in St. John, Newfoundland

Wylie's Sister City

Over the past week, it has been affirmed to me time and again, just how much I love Wylie. I love the close-knit community feel we have here and I was reminded of this numerous times last week as I celebrated the beautiful life of my great niece and also mourned the tragic loss of it.

Very few people leave a legacy in their lives, if ever, so it is truly rare to find a teenager who not only left a legacy, but sowed love all around her. How could the light from this beautiful, artistic old soul in a young body be extinguished to early?

On Monday, May 1, 2017 I answered my brother's call to hear, "Alaina was hit by a car after school and is not expected to make it."

I cried out. How could this happen?

As the story unfolded, it turns out Alaina attempted to cross the street as she walked from her middle school to the high school for theater practice, and accidentally stepped in front of a car driven by a 16-year-old high school girl. In that moment, two young girl's lives were tragically altered forever. Heartbreak times two.

When Alaina was called to heaven two days later, it became crystal clear that she left a legacy behind. Not just a small glimmer, not a teenage flame, a full-blown torch for all to see.

This torch will be carried on by family and friends, and a community who came to know her through the testimony of her classmates. Dozens affirmed that her legacy is about the unwavering love and acceptance this young wisp of a girl lived and breathed.

As a community surrounded her and grieved heavily with the family, story after story was shared painting Alaina's beautiful character. She would sit with those who were isolated, reach out to those were were bullied and share her soul selflessly with those who needed a friend. One young classmate recounted how she was upset because someone called her fat, and Alaina told her she was just as she should be. Others shared how she made them feel special, even though they hardly knew her. I believe character is built not just by caring parents and a strong family unit, but also by a nurturing community.

Alaina's legacy was that of love and acceptance, and the small community of Flushing, Michigan played that legacy out as the family grieved this past week. This tight-knit community enveloped the family in love and care, just as the people in Wylie do when tragedy strikes one of our own. Amazingly, our communities are bonded in this way, just like siblings are forever bonded.

Last week, as I traveled to Flushing and experienced the spirit of a loving small-town, I looked to Wylie with renewed eyes and was reminded of why I love it here so much.

Wylie Campaign Disrespectful to US Flag

If ever there was a reason to vote for Dr. Timothy "Toby" Wallis for Wylie City Council Place 5, this is it.

At the polls last weekend, outside the Rita Smith Library, Ziggy Kagnew's campaign tossed the American flag on the ground. When they were admonished for it, they still put it on the ground as depicted in the image above.

In the photo you can see that Kagnew's push cards are held down by a rock from outside the library, which are placed on top of the flag, on top of his "Ziggy" yard sign for place 5. Disgraceful!

Obviously this is an issue considering Kagnew's campaign has been on Ethiopian rights and helping them take over government power starting at the local level and moving up.

You can find additional details on  my blog post Dr. Timothy "Toby" Wallis Endorsement

May 6th Election Endorsements


Wylie City Council Place 5 - Dr. Timothy "Toby" Wallis
Collin College Trustee Place 1 - Fred Moses
Collin College Trustee Place 2 - Jeri Landfair Chambers
Collin College Trustee Place 5 - Larry Wainwright
Proposition No. 1 - For

Early voting at Rita Smith Library

Fri & Sat 8-5
Mon & Tuesday 7-7
Election Day May 6th 7-7

Don't California My Texas

California expats are getting a really bad rap in Texas. Granted, there are some poor misguided soul-sisters to Dianne Feinstein, that have dared tiptoe through the yellow roses of Texas. But not all of them are bad.

Actually, if you talk to a lot of Californians that have moved here, they are happy to remove themselves from the oppressive, black hole of taxes and slime that is California politics.

They will always love California, but not for the reason you might think. I know, I once called Southern California home and I still miss the weather and beaches that are second to none.

That said, I welcome them to the land of the free. For if they are teetering on the liberal side, they will soon find out how awesome the big-ass, successful experiment in conservative values that Texas is.

Welcome to your new home!

Taxes Increase Four Years Running Under Wylie Mayor Eric Hogue

There has been exceedingly robust activity on the Nextdoor social media platform about Collin College, Wylie ISD, the City of Wylie and taxes. To think it all started with a simple question from someone about where the new college campus is going.

As you can imagine, I've taken every opportunity to educate the public on how our tax rates work, and why our taxes continue to increase. One would swear that reducing taxes is a novel new idea. For Wylie, it actually would be.

I've heard it said before from Mayor Eric Hogue and City Manager Mindy Manson, that cutting the tax rate means the city would have to cut services thanks to all the new growth. Whether intentional or unintentional, that statement is a lie.

Growth pays for growth as every new taxable entity begins paying their portion, which should cover services. The cost of city services is a result of how much the city is spending on police, fire, water, trash, sewer, roads, parks and a host of other things.

About four years ago the break even point for Wylie homes was about $220K taxable property value. Hypothetically, even if that number has increased to $260K, most of the new homes are more than covering their portion when they close, and many existing homes reside near that mark. But that number is really just a stab in the dark, and could even be artificially higher based upon all the additional spending the city has taken up through the years. Certainly, our property should be running in the black by now, at this stage of build-out. If it isn't, then the city is seriously mismanaging our budget.

Sure, Wylie has "reduced" the rate a half cent here, a penny there and last year by two full cents, but our taxes still went up. In case you want to do some additional reading, and if my highlighted post on the home page wasn't enough of a draw for you, I've thoroughly explained this phenomena in Wylie Tax Rate Kept Artificially High.

Many people have expressed concern over our tax rate, and want to know what can be done about it. I let them know that our city leaders will wrongfully assume everyone is happy with our taxes, as long as nobody shows up at the city council meetings.

Pinkie-promise, there will be much hand wringing and tap dancing at the dais, if anyone dares suggest a full rollback this year. However, when looking at the anticipated property value increase we are sure to be given again this year, there is no excuse great enough for the city to refuse to give us a rollback to the effective tax rate. None.

I'm not work averse, and I will continue to educate the masses about our tax rate until the city stops mismanaging our money. Because that's what it is when a city refuses to do a rollback to the effective tax rate year, after year, four years and counting.

Image: LinkedIn