By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In the community of Wilmer, where the average taxable value of a house is $51,354, the $69,000 exemption takes the value of your house down to the negative numbers, meaning you have a tax bill of zero.
So the exemption was a big deal for un-rich people and a little deal for rich people. In fact the county's own forecasts, provided to the commissioners before they voted, showed that most moderate- and lower-income people in the county will lose money for years on the Dickey deal.
Eventually, depending on how long you live, the average person will end up coming out ahead on the Dickey deal. But for most people in most communities, it will take years for that to happen. And there is still a whopping difference in who makes out the most.
I took spreadsheets that the county had worked up to show how the various scenarios will affect taxpayers countywide, and I plugged in numbers for individual cities in the county. The results are pretty staggering.
In the city of Dallas, the average homeowner who lives to 74 and stays in his or her house will come out ahead by about $2,450 for the nine-year period from age 65 to age 74. In Highland Park, that homeowner will come out $21,812 ahead.
Please, if you could hold off beating me over the head for one second about the terrible tax bills people pay in the Park Cities, I would like to offer one small observation: Generally speaking, people in the Park Cities already pay far and away the lowest property taxes of anybody in the county.
I looked up a house in East Dallas that's one block away from my own (on a much pricier street than my own). It is valued on the tax roll at $1,137,450. That family pays a total annual property tax bill of $23,504.48.
Then I looked at a house on Fairfax Avenue in Highland Park that's on the rolls at $1,156,720—a little more than my neighbor's house. Their tax bill for the year is $14,343.44.
Ten grand less! As a percentage of the taxable value of the house, the Dallas tax bill is almost twice the Highland Park bill.
Know why? Pretty simple answer. School taxes in Dallas are substantially higher than in Highland Park. But the city tax rate in Dallas is way, way higher. City taxes in Highland Park are at a rate of 22.5 cents per $100 of value. In Dallas the rate is almost 73 cents. The city of Dallas tax rate is more than three times higher than the Highland Park rate.
Some of the difference is that we taxpayers in Dallas have to shoulder the bill for a lot of major infrastructure that the Parkies can kind of piggyback on without paying. The major arterial freeways that get them in and out of the bubble, the city airport, major flood control along the Trinity, a lot of big regional items.
But some of it also has to do with a whole lot more house value in the park cities paying taxes to take care of way fewer people. Look, even I admit: People have a right to be rich. We can't just eat them.
At their very next commission meeting after voting to screw poor people, Dickey acknowledged—to her credit—that perhaps she had been a bit too bald. She suggested the commission put the $69,000 exemption back into effect. Without batting an eye Foster joined the rest of the commission in doing just that. In fact, almost without opening an eye.
Of course now they have no idea what they've done to their budget. They have given away lots of money but brought back in none. Safe to say, if and when Dickey and Foster ever leave the court, they will not be going into the accounting profession together. One hopes.
I tried to call both Commissioner Dickey and Judge Foster for this story, and I received no reply from either. I remain absolutely committed to one day meeting and conversing with Judge Foster. I promise not to ask trick questions. Just stuff like, I hold up my hand and I say, "How many fingers?"
I'm not out to stump him. I think the Fates have done that already.
I would just like to know: If you're a Democrat, and you ran for office on the Democratic ticket, why do you always vote with the barbecue plutocrats? Why didn't you run for office on the barbecue plutocrat ticket?
As for Maureen Dickey? She's doing one hell of a job. Just what her constituents sent her there to do.