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Reading and Listening – Houston Public Media

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Engines Podcast

Episode: 3223 The problem of writing for people to read and for people to hear.  Today, we read and we listen.

Episode: 3223 The problem of writing for people to read and for people to hear.  Today, we read and we listen.

 

Tags comprehending listening comprehending reading comprehension Flesch Reading Ease Test Flesch-Kinkaid grade level radio speech short-term memory understanding reading



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Texas has the 7th highest property tax rate in the nation

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by Lydia Bhattacharya

 

Now that homeowners have experienced multiple tax cycles under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, many have been confronted with a reduced ability to write off state and local taxes, which means property tax rates have become a more visible part of buyers’ budgets. That’s why a recent article by WalletHub that ranks U.S. states and the District of Columbia in terms of their  property tax rates is worth a close look, especially for real estate professionals in Houston.

Texas ranked as the state with the seventh highest property tax rates, with an effective real estate tax rate of 1.8 percent. The annual taxes collected on a $205,000 home (the median value for a home in the U.S.) were $3,703. Looking specifically at the state’s median home value of $161,700, Wallethub estimated that Texans would pay $2,922 in taxes on a home of this value. When compared to Alabama, the state with the second lowest property tax rate, owners of homes at the state median value ($137,200) were estimated to pay only $840 in annual taxes.

Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Wallethub estimated that “the average American household spends $2,375 on property taxes for their homes each year.”

Wallethub also asked a panel of “property-tax experts” about the importance of property tax rates and how they apply to different consumer groups. A key question for real estate professionals was whether people consider property taxes in the process of deciding where to move.

Of the three experts who answered this question, all agreed that property taxes are important to factor in while buying a home. Two respondents noted that, in the past, fewer buyers paid attention to property taxes, but with new tax laws in place at the federal level, many have had to adjust their budgets and be flexible during the homebuying process.

“Traditionally, property taxes were not an incredibly important consideration for people deciding to move from one location to another,” said Andrew D. Appleby, an assistant professor of law at the Stetson University College of Law. “After the TCJA, state and local taxes generally are often now an overriding consideration in the relocation decision.”

Paula R. Worthington, a senior lecturer and academic director at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, observed that “lots of empirical evidence suggests that people are willing to pay more for houses with low property taxes than for similar houses with higher property taxes, assuming the schools and other local public services are similar. So, house prices, property taxes and local public services are closely related.”

Also, real estate professionals should be ready to factor this into their budget conversations with first-time homebuyers.

Mitchell Franklin, an associate professor of accounting at the Madden School of Business at Le Moyne College, warned that “in a high tax state, it is not uncommon for monthly property taxes to be as much as a mortgage payment.”



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Harris County Commissioners Fire Budget Officer – Houston Public Media

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The Harris County Commissioners fired Bill Jackson as county budget officer Tuesday.

Harris County Commissioners on Tuesday fired Bill Jackson as county budget officer.

The motion came from Democratic Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who argued Jackson had been less than transparent in how he ran the budget office. The vote was 3-2 along party lines.

Republican County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle refused to participate in the executive session where Jackson’s fate was decided, and said the motion had come with no warning.

“We have this marvelous AAA rating because of our openness and transparency,” Cagle said. “I’m concerned that this is not the time to do anything like this. That it is not appropriate. And if we are going to do this, we need to give the public some time to see what we’re doing.”

Radack echoed Cagle’s comments, saying he thought Jackson was doing an outstanding job and noting that the county commissioners had just passed the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget by a vote of 5-0.

Jackson has been with the county for more than 30 years and had been county budget officer since 2011. He had planned to retire within two years.

On Tuesday, Jackson agreed to stay on temporarily until the county could select a replacement. Judge Lina Hidalgo offered to allow him to stay with the county in another capacity if a suitable position could be found.



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Mayor, HPD, announce new measures to fight violent crime spike

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Mayor Sylvester Turner announced new efforts Tuesday to crack down on an uptick in violent crime, including an overtime allocation of $1.5 million to get more officers on the street and an effort to enlist private money toward an $8.5 million investment in new technology, including cameras and analytics equipment.

The mayor said he expects the combination of those two initiatives to help quell the increase, which Chief Art Acevedo said mirrors a nationwide trend. Acevedo said he’d like to specifically address gang violence and car burglaries.

Crime data provided by Houston police to the FBI show that while overall crime has followed a decades-long downturn, violent crime has increased six percent over the last four years, driven by higher instances of aggravated assaults and rapes.


“We don’t want to wait until we get to a situation where it becomes really a crisis so to speak, we want to check things where they are,” Turner said. “Quite frankly, we need those technology enhancements and we need them right now.”

The mayor said the city is still about 600 officers short of what the department needs, despite personnel increases over the last four years. He called on the private sector to help the cash-strapped city pay for the $8.5 million technology effort when it is ready. The mayor said he has already reached out to some folks about the plan and hopes to be able to announce funding partnerships soon.

The overtime payments are effective immediately and will get more officers on patrol over the next six months.

“The economic vibrancy of a city starts with a safe city,” Acevedo said about asking philanthropy for help. “There’s a lot of people and companies in the city that can write a check, and it’s an accounting error to their bottom line. And so if you want to give a gift to the people of Houston, that will be here and paying dividends long after you’re gone, write that check.”

The department is currently deploying a system provided by ShotSpotter that helps locate the site of gunfire with targeted cameras. That pilot program will be used across five square miles in the southern part of the city, and Acevedo said one aspect of the program he will now develop would be to expand that technology.


Acevedo said there are other programs, including analytics equipment, that would help police search through and digest a large amount of information much quicker.

“When you combine the technology enhancements with the additional overtime of $1.5 million, I think you can see some significant improvements in public safety throughout our entire city,” Turner said.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for more details.

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