Emails quoting Ed Van Eenoo, deputy chief financial officer, City of Austin, March 16 and 22 and April 3-6, 2017 (received from Brad Sinclair, senior business process consultant)

10:15 a.m.

Gardner,

 

I was able to reach some colleagues to gather responses to your inquiry. Please see below for responses to your questions.

 

Regards,

Brad

 

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2017 10:50 AM

To: Sinclair, Brad

Subject: Newspaper inquiry for a fact check

 

Brad:

 

Good morning.

 

In that vein, I was told today that you provided Median Family Income data to Council Member Troxclair’s office that looks to me like it reflects on the MSA rather than Austin by itself. For our fact check, I am interested in your on-the-record analysis of why if it makes sense in the context of Austin-specific research to consider the MSA figures rather than, say,  Austin-only MFI estimates available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

 

The MFI data series comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and does reflect the Austin-Round Rock MSA as opposed to just the City of Austin. HUD does not provide this data at the city level. HUD releases this data series each year in February or March (the 2017 figures have yet to be released) for the prior calendar year. The American Community Survey (ACS) data, while having the advantage of being specific to the city, has a much longer time lag in terms of its release. For instance, though the City is currently engaged in the planning of its fiscal year 2017-18 budget, the most recently available city-specific ACS data is from 2015, and the 2016 five-year estimate data is not due to be released until December of 2017. The HUD data series is also the official data series used to determine eligibility for a wide range of affordable housing programs. We therefore have often relied on the HUD data series because it is the most current official government data series and tracks with other evaluations of housing affordability, whereas relying on the ACS data would require us to make independent projections of income two years into the future in order to compare income versus current property tax levels.

 

 

It looks to me too like the former figures show far less growth than the city-only figures. Any thoughts or research on why this would be so? Caveats?

 

We agree with your assessment of the two data series, but we have not researched this issue in depth.

 

 

Michael Searle in Troxclair’s office also shared with us an MFI estimate for 2017. Who or what originated that figure? Was it a city-specific figure or MSA-tied?

 

Our financial staff calculated a projected MFI for 2017, pending the release of the HUD data. It is a projection for the HUD MSA-based MFI series.

 

Thank you for what you do.

 

g.

 

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W. Gardner Selby

Reporter / News

Austin American-Statesman

PolitiFact Texas

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:17 AM

To: Sinclair, Brad

Subject: RE: Newspaper inquiry for a fact check

 

Appreciated.

 

How did the financial staff reach the 2017 figure?

10:25 a.m.

By applying the ten-year compound annual growth rate to the 2016 term.

 

Regards,

Brad

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 9:38 AM

Subject: RE: Newspaper inquiry for a fact check

 

Summing up, then, it looks like you replied to Searle in Troxclair’s office with the regional figures, correct? It looks to me too like there was no indication in your reply to Searle that those were regional as opposed to city-only figures; is that an accurate read?

 

You are correct on both counts.

8:25 p.m.

April 3, 2017

Please see the below on behalf of Ed Van Eenoo, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, regarding your previous statements.

 

The Tax rate, effective tax rate, and rollback tax rate in the chart provided by TCAD under the City of Austin section from 2011-2016 are correct.

 

Marya Crigler emailed us a chart showing that by TCAD’s calculations, the $1,137 in city taxes due on a median-value homestead property in 2016 was $124 greater, up 12 percent, from the $1,013 due on a median-value homestead in 2012. Those figures, Crigler said, took into account the curbing effect on tax bills from state and city homestead tax exemptions.

 

This statement appears accurate based on the value data provided by TCAD.

10:49 a.m.

April 4, 2017

Please see below for responses to your questions.

 

Regards,

Brad

 

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Monday, April 03, 2017 9:13 PM

To: Sinclair, Brad

Subject: Re: Urgent follow-up, 2

 

So what's the distinction? What's included under single-family homes? Please be specific.

 

The distinction is that City did not offer a homestead exemption prior to FY 2016. The “Single Family” TCAD property type includes residential homes and condominiums.  

Also, would that make invalid comparisons of the two dollar figures? Put another way, what would be the best 2011-12 dollar figure to compare to the more recent figure? Please point me to the new figure's source if possible.

 

The equivalent number for comparison for FY 2012 would be a home value of $201,003 and a tax rate of $0.4811 per $100 of taxable value netting an annual tax bill of $967.02.  That $201,003 is the median taxable value of homesteads not receiving the senior or disabled exemption, calculated by City staff from tax year 2011 property value data provided by TCAD.  The response to Council Budget Question #270 from FY 2017 Approved Budget may be useful and is located here: http://www.austintexas.gov/budget/cbq/index.cfm?action=pushFile&popup=true&FILE_ID=2054CFDCCF. Please note the “2017 Proposed Rate” column for the Typical Non-Senior Ratepayer FY12-FY17 table on page 2 reflects the Approved property tax rate for FY 2017.

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Tuesday, April 04, 2017 11:30 AM

To: Sinclair, Brad

Subject: RE: Urgent follow-up, 2

 

Thanks. If I wanted to compare the $879 figure to the appropriate comparable figure in the latest city budget, what would that figure be and where is it sourced?

12:17 p.m.

April 4, 2017

We no longer track that information. In FY 2016, we stopped tracking the median of all single-family homes since Council expressed a desire to move to this new data series (median non-senior homestead assessed value) as it would more accurately reflect the impact of homestead exemption increases they adopted.

Regards,

Brad

2:58 p.m.

April 6, 2017

Thanks for your patience. Please see below for responses to your questions.

Regards,

Brad

 

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2017 3:42 PM

 

Brad:

 

For our fact check, which I want to complete soon, I am needing to explain the difference between single-family residences and non-senior homesteads. Maybe if I have current counts of each, that would help.

 

For FY 2017, based on data received from the appraisal districts, there are approximately 138,400 homesteads and 100,000 homesteads that do not receive the over-65 (senior) or disable persons exemptions. You would have to contact Travis, Williamson, and Hays Central Appraisal Districts to get the exact current counts.

 

Otherwise…

 

Wouldn’t many of the former still fit under the latter?

 

Yes, all properties not receiving the senior or disabled persons exemption (what we call a ‘non-senior homestead’) would be single-family residences. Single-family residence is the broadest category. Properties receiving the homestead exemption are a subset of this category. Properties receiving the senior or disabled persons exemption and properties not receiving the senior or disabled persons exemption are two discrete subsets of properties receiving the homestead exemption.

 

Also, why exclude homesteads belonging to elderly homeowners?

 

City financial staff have for many years identified a ‘typical’ Austin resident for purposes of tracking the impact of historical and prospective changes to fees, rates, and taxes (for instance, please see the Council Budget Question response to which we recently directed you). For several years prior to the fiscal year 2015-16 budget planning process, the City used the median value of all single-family residences as the ‘typical’ home value.

 

The impetus for the switch to defining the ‘typical’ resident’s property as a homestead not receiving the senior or disabled exemption was the City Council’s decision during the fiscal year 2015-16 budget planning process to begin implementing a general homestead exemption. The Council wanted a measure of typical home value that would more explicitly track the impact of the homestead exemption. Because ‘all single-family residences’ includes both homesteads as well as non-owner-occupied homes that do not receive a homestead exemption, this measure does not allow for isolating the effect of prospective increases in the homestead exemption.

 

A similar rationale dictated removing properties receiving the senior and disabled exemption from the data series. While these properties do receive the general homestead exemption, they also receive an additional, fixed-value exemption that is regularly increased (it has risen from $51,000 to its current $82,500 over the past several years). The effect of this fixed-value exemption would again make it difficult to isolate the effects solely of increases in the general homestead exemption were these properties included. The City Council instead has asked financial staff to track homesteads receiving the senior or disabled exemption separately, and staff regularly prepare analyses regarding these properties to aid Council’s discussions regarding prospective increases in the senior/disabled exemption (again, please see the Council Budget Question response).

 

In short, the single-family residences data series has been replaced by two more specifically targeted data series in order to more accurately and specifically analyze the impact of the general homestead and senior/disabled exemptions.

 

The state comptroller says a homestead can be a separate structure, condominium or a manufactured home located on owned or leased land, as long as the individual living in the home owns it.”

 

SO: What's a non-senior homestead and how does it differ from other single-family homes? What’s the reasoning (and whose reasoning is it) for focusing on the former over the latter?

 

Please see responses above.

 

Finally, I plan to attribute your email replies entirely to Van Eenoo. Correct or no? Yes, to Ed Van Eenoo, Deputy Chief Financial Officer

 

 

g.