This Council Raised Your Taxes
And Should Answer For It
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
The incumbents have run a shameful campaign. There’s no other way to say it. They have attacked Addison and its history, and have unjustifiably disparaged its former staff and management, all for perceived political gain. They have caused harm to Addison.
The strategy of continuing to misrepresent the facts is a disservice to Addison and an insult to Addison’s voters. It amplifies the unwillingness of the incumbents to accept responsibility for the decisions they have made. They owe honesty and explanations to the electorate, not a parade of misinformation that deflects attention from their conduct. So let’s talk about a couple of issues the incumbents and their supporters keep raising.
Addison’s Taxes are Higher, So What Good Is a Claimed “Expanding Tax Base?”
The facts-don’t-matter folks are now touting an “expanding tax base.” It’s a faulty, half-a-balance-sheet analysis. Consider it this way: When was the last time you judged your asset “base” without considering how you paid for it and how much it costs you to maintain it? Addison is no different. We keep hearing about an “expanding tax base,” but the costs are never discussed. And, we know that the taxes Addison residents are paying continue to increase. Clearly, there’s more to the story.
You have to consider the whole picture. For one thing, an expanding tax base means higher service obligations, and that means higher expenses for Addison. Further, the reality is that the tax revenue generated by new taxable properties is not always enough to offset the higher expenses. Multi-family is an example of where that is typically the case. Second, sometimes an expanding tax base is essentially purchased by a municipality, for example by providing financial incentives or tax abatements. You have to consider that price in order to analyze the real financial impact of a project. And that’s the key piece that these folks keep omitting.
The Sam’s redevelopment makes the point. Prior to the vote, you heard lots about the value the project would add to Addison’s tax rolls, i.e., the “expanding tax base” theme. But they omitted several key facts. To start, you weren’t told that the value assumed a full and successful build, which, if it ever happens, is many, many years away. Second, you weren’t told that the total value they were touting will never be taxable in its entirety, because various exemptions (like homestead, for example) will reduce the taxable value. In other words, not all of the cited value actually produces revenue. And finally, you weren’t told that this council was intending to “BUY” this new value with $6.5 million of our tax money. Among other things, you never saw a cost/benefit analysis of the project, and surely weren’t told that it will be 23 years or more before Addison could hope to see a return on its $6.5 million investment.
So you can easily see that an “expanding tax base” just doesn’t tell the whole story, and does not, standing alone, confirm financial health. And here in Addison, where taxes are HIGHER, i.e., trending upward, there is every indication that Meier and his captive incumbents are not responsibly balancing an expansion with other needs of the community.
Addison’s Council – not DCAD – Raised Your Taxes
For what feels like the hundredth time: DCAD DIDN’T RAISE YOUR TAXES. And, DCAD’s valuations didn’t raise your taxes. ADDISON’S COUNCIL RAISED YOUR TAXES.
Higher Addison taxes are 100% the responsibility of Addison’s council. The fact is that the incumbents who claim to be fiscal conservatives raised your taxes the last two years by more than 7%. Then, they overspent the budget BOTH years by almost $2 million. This is all on Meier and his incumbents. The efforts to blame DCAD are absurd.
This is simple: Addison’s council is the entity that approves Addison’s budget, which includes the total revenue needed for all the expenditures included in every line item in that budget. The Council’s decisions on how much money Addison should or will spend determines how much in taxes Addison needs to collect from its citizens in the form of property taxes. Once that is decided, it’s just math. Given DCAD’s valuation, what tax rate will yield the desired level of income? The formula is simple:
In other words, the DCAD values are set, the total tax revenue is determined, and math gives you the tax rate that yields the total tax revenue needed given the DCAD values that are provided.
This is fact: DCAD doesn’t tell Addison how much money it should spend. DCAD doesn’t tell Addison how much total tax revenue Addison must get from the imposition of property taxes (what you pay). DCAD doesn’t tell Addison how it should spend the money. DCAD doesn’t set the tax rate that results in the needed, calculated total tax revenue.
This is also fact: DCAD values could go up, and the council could set a tax rate that lowers taxes. DCAD values could go down, and the council could set a tax rate that raises taxes. It’s a math formula with a variable – the tax rate – that is wholly within the discretion of Addison’s council. The decisions to raise taxes or to lower taxes are 100% made by Addison’s council.
This does not happen: The council does not set a tax rate in a vacuum. The council does not set the tax rate without considering the DCAD values it doesn’t control or the total tax revenue figures it does control. The council does not set a tax rate and then hope for the best, or any other silly thing these incumbents and their supporters are suggesting.
This is fact: Your taxes are higher because Meier and his captive, tax-and-spend council raised your taxes. Period.
Here’s what we can learn from the incumbents’ efforts to blame higher taxes on DCAD: these incumbents refuse to own their decisions, and certainly decline to accept responsibility for their tax-and-spend policies. And that’s worth knowing.
When I was on the council, I owned my decisions and explained my votes openly and honestly to anyone who asked. That’s what true transparency means.
We sorely need to restore true transparency in Addison, but it will NEVER happen as long as Meier owns and controls the council, as he does now.