Tuesday, August 12, 2008


(Editor's Note: This is Wednesday's post - just getting a head start - I have a busy day on Wednesday and my brain only functions for three hours a day so I got this done tonight. Also because this piece has multiple purposes, I had to be tamed with some of my nicknames - the nicknames shall return because what is a blog without school yard naming calling?)

Both Cameron County and the City of Brownsville are proposing a property tax increase. Mayor Ahumada, while not taking an official position on the issue, at Tuesday’s Special Commission meeting did state in an intelligent way the reasons why the city needs more money. There is a difference between more money, and higher taxes. Raising taxes to meet budgetary demands, especially during a time of economic hard times, is never a smart thing.

Commissioners Camarillo and Atkinson did suggest that before the city moves for higher taxes, it should first look for budgetary savings. In addition to the things suggested by Commissioner Camarillo, I would suggest that the city manager conduct a full audit of personnel efficiency.

There is no doubt in my mind, given the compadre system which governs Brownsville, that an audit related to personnel would result in the recommendation of eliminating a whole lot of positions. A second place where the city can find savings is by doing an audit of city credit cards. I have personally seen COB employees outside of Office Depot selling printer cartridges to their friends and families.

It is my position that this city cannot and should not support any tax increase until the above referenced audits have been conducted. Similar audits should be conducted at the PUB.

Commissioner Atkinson suggested that there are a lot of places where savings can be had at the PUB. Government should tighten its belt before it asks the taxpayers for more money. The reality is, Brownsville is currently within the reappraisal cycle of the Cameron County Appraisal District. The timing could not have been any worse. The citizens of Brownsville are already rebelling over the increased taxes they are paying because of the new appraisals. A tax increase will only serve to further alienate the people from this City Commission. Their voices will be heard on election day.

It does not end here - as Commissioner Atkinson has suggested, sometimes it is about a zero sum game. If the City Commission can find a way to increase property taxes on the people without any real overall increase, then what is the big deal? This brings us back to my old dog - it is time to sell the Port of Brownsville. I currently pay $320.31 per year in property taxes to the City of Brownsville. When I tell people about this in NY they tell me I am lying. My new taxes will be $336.37. This will be an increase of $16.06 per year. As to senior citizens, their tax rate is frozen in time. They will not pay a penny extra.

My tax to the BND is $26.40 per year. If we sell the Port of Brownsville and relieve ourselves of this tax burden, I will have a net savings of $10.34. The BND is a cash cow for the local politicos and their compadres. The BND Board will never recommend selling the Port of Brownsville to pay off its debt and relieve the people of the tax burden because their real clients, their compadres, need the BND Board to keep the cash flowing. Under the direction of a private company the compadres of the local politicians could find themselves high and dry.

Another place to find money is to finally address the issue of Impact Fees. This City Commission lied without a conscience when they campaigned with a promise to address Impact Fees. The people continue to cover this subsidy to the developers. Why? Maybe it is time to look at campaign finance reports.

Finally, this City Commission can help relieve some of the budget problems by returning the money they stole from the people by and through their illegal insurance claims on the city. Judge Janet Leal had to issue a court order to stop this illegal taking of taxpayers money.

I have outlined numerous options to avoiding a tax increase. Personally, for an additional $16.06 of my money I say pass the tax increase, but also order an audit of personnel to see where the city can get rid of unnecessary personnel, order an audit of city credit cards and prosecute those who are abusing the city credit cards, audit overtime being paid to city employees, pass a resolution asking Governor Perry to put into issue the sale of the Port of Brownsville (our local representatives to Austin will never do this on their own, this is why we must ask Governor Perry to put it on the Legislative Agenda), and last finally take action on Impact Fees.

Oh, as to my net savings of $10.34, Cameron County can have some of that for their tax increase. In the end my taxes will still go down. It is time the Brownsville City Commission pass a resolution demanding Governor Perry take the necessary action to allow for the sale of the Port of Brownsville. And for the record, Cameron County Commissioners should take the same action on the Port.

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