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ANOTHER HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION DEBATE COULD BE LOOMING by Brian Bodine
by Brian Bodine    Thu, May 11, 2006, 01:00 AM

The homestead exemption could be the subject of another debate in Dallas after voters in the district elect as many as three new trustees to the DISD school board on Saturday.

As a result of the potential $43 million dollar shortfall facing DISD due to the district’s status as a property-wealthy district, trustees have been considering and may continue to consider measures to reduce spending. At a DISD Board of Trustees retreat in late April, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told trustees that they have the option of lowering or eliminating DISD’s current homestead exemption, which makes the first 10 percent of assessed property value on a primary residence tax-free. (It is important to note that Hinojosa did not actually recommend lowering or eliminating the homestead exemption. He said that he was obligated to inform the board of what their options are.)

The suggestion of lowering the homestead exemption brought opposition to the idea from board President Lois Parrott, who said that even the mention of the homestead exemption would anger already irate homeowners.

DallasBlog recently spoke to the board president and asked her about the possibility of the board tinkering with the 10 percent homestead exemption in Dallas. Parrott said that she thinks there might be a push on the board to eliminate the homestead exemption in the future, though it is difficult to tell what might happen with the addition of one or more new board members.

Parrott said that she was steadfastly against lowering or eliminating the homestead exemption. “Once something is taken away, you don’t see it back,” said Parrott. “Right now, I would rather help out the homeowner.”

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BILL COULD GIVE EVACUATION AUTHORITY TO GOVERNOR
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 10, 2006, 11:36 PM

A bill that may be considered in the special session would give the Governor the authority to order hurricane evacuations on the gulf coast if local authorities do not. According to the Austin-American Statesman, the bill would give more authority to the Governor to coordinate regional efforts while consulting with local authorities.

Governor Perry has said that he will not consider any other bills in the special session until lawmakers come to agreements on the cigarette tax and school finance.

Click here to read story 

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SHAPIRO AFFIRMS POWER OF ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 10, 2006, 10:11 PM

Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) affirmed the authority of the elected State Board of Education on the Senate floor today. In response to questions from Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville), Shapiro told Senators it was never her intent to take curriculum authority away from the elected State Board of Education. HB 1 contains provisions that direct the commissioners of higher education and public education to form vertical teams to work out proposals to align the K-12 curriculum with expectations in higher education. Shapiro stated that if the State Board of Education disagrees with the product produced by the vertical teams it is free to reject the product. She also amended the bill to clarify that it is not the intent of the bill to remove any authority from the elected board and that the board maintains full authority over the curriculum.

In addition, Shapiro told Senators that she supports putting new mathematics textbooks in Texas classrooms. Several State Board of Education members expressed concerns about language that was in the bill that directed the board not to issue any new proclamations ordering textbooks and to rescind previously issued proclamations. The provisions asking the board to rescind previously issued proclamations (the math books) will be deleted. In other words, the Senate declared that it will allow the process of ordering new math books to go forward.

Both changes are designed to address concerns raised by members of the State Board of Education. During the debate, Shapiro repeatedly affirmed her support for the elected State Board of Education and its authority.

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SENATE PASSES HB1 by 31 to 0 VOTE
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 10, 2006, 10:10 PM

 Senators have agreed on HB 1. The Senate voted to suspend 31-0 to take up HB 1. Here is the core agreement on equity:

In 2007 and 2008, districts will get four additional pennies (per $100 of valuation) of tax effort that they can access without an election. Those four pennies will not be recaptured. They will, however, be equalized at the property wealth equivilent to that of the Austin Independent School District (approximately the 94.5 percentile of property wealth). In 2009 and beyond, the number of pennies goes up to six. They are not recaptured but poor districts would receive a state guarantee equal to the amount the Austin school district would generate from its local tax base. The high school allotment created in the bill is $275 per student. This allotment goes to all school districts, regardless of property wealth. The agreement provides relief from recapture or "Robin Hood" for property wealthy districts and additional state aid for property poor districts.

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COUNCIL TO TRANSCONTINENTAL: IT'S ON
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 10, 2006, 05:35 PM

Remember that historically protected, don't-knock-this-building-down warehouse - the old Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad freight depot - just south of downtown that Transcontinental Realty Investors went ahead and knocked down when no one was looking a few weekends ago?

Well, the Dallas City Council plans to sue, and not just sue a little. They plan to hit it like a vengeful god smiting a city of sinners.

“We’re going to sue their butts off. We can’t let them get away with this. What they did was a downright crime,” said Councilmember Angela Hunt. “We’re united on this. We’re going after them hard. The owner, the demolition company, everyone.”

When told that Transcontinental Realty's head honcho, Gene Phillips, was notorious both in the real estate and media communities for being litigious, Hunt said "Good. He better be prepared."

The council will have formal discussion on the lawsuits within a week.

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TIMBER CREEK RESIDENTS LOSE THIS ROUND
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 10, 2006, 05:17 PM

I'll have the details when I have time to organize all my notes, but the bottom line is that today the residents of that old but fiesty 1,100-unit Timber Creek apartment complex in Vickery Meadow that Trammell Crow wants to tear down to build some kind of 450,000-square-foot retail center lost the rezoning battle at city council. Only Mayor Laura Miller voted against the rezoning.

Developers plan to help residents relocate and they won't start evicting people until at least April 1, 2007, but Lisa Paine, one of the leaders of the resident opposition, says she plans to carry the fight to the environmental stage, since Trammell Crow will need a lot of approvals to re-route the creek that flows through the property. She says it may be just a delaying action, but she and others who live there will fight it. And lord knows environmental development spats can get tied up.

More later.

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43 STORY TOWER PLANNED FOR VICTORY PARK
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 10, 2006, 05:14 PM

In 2009, look for another high rise to mark the Dallas skyline. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Hillwood development company plans a 43 story hotel/condominium building that will be a part of the Victory Park urban project at the heart of Dallas.

The high rise will be a Mandarin Oriental, which is considered to be among the most luxurious hotels in the world. Condos will be priced from $850K to $6 million.

 Click here for story

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43 STORY TOWER PLANNED FOR VICTORY PARK
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 10, 2006, 05:14 PM

In 2009, look for another high rise to mark the Dallas skyline. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Hillwood development company plans a 43 story hotel/condominium building that will be a part of the Victory Park urban project at the heart of Dallas.

The high rise will be a Mandarin Oriental, which is considered to be among the most luxurious hotels in the world. Condos will be priced from $850K to $6 million.

 Click here for story

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CENTER LOCATION DELAYING HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDS by Brian Bodine
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 10, 2006, 10:10 AM

The county is slow in applying for homeland security grant money, according to county commissioners.

On Tuesday, the Dallas County Commissioners Court heard from county Homeland Security Director Robbie Robinson. Robinson informed commissioners that the county cannot submit its application for homeland security funding until the location for the county’s homeland security command center is determined.

Commissioners expressed concern that homeland security funds were decreasing since many other counties had already submitted their applications for funding. “I guess I’m feeling that maybe we’re getting left out and others are submitting their applications,” said County Judge Margaret Keliher.

Robinson said that the application is for funding from a federal grant program and that Dallas County could not apply for funding while the county is trying to find a location for the center. DallasBlog spoke to Robinson about the delay, and Robinson said that he was pleased with the reaction of the commissioners and the sense of urgency that they had. “The commissioners have shown a real commitment in bringing us up to speed,” said Robinson.

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KTVT: TORNADOS KILL 3 IN COLLIN COUNTRY
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 10, 2006, 08:31 AM

KTVT Ch 11 provides footage of devastation caused by two tornados in northern Collin County.  Reportedly three are dead with dogs hunting in the wreckage for others.

Click here for more ...

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