texas

Photo courtesy Flickr

The South and the West have the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., and Texas has a bumper crop of those cities, new population estimates for cities and towns released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed. 

Just how many Texas towns and cities showed growth? Three made the top 15 most populous cities in the U.S. and even more saw substantial growth.

“On the other hand, of the 19,495 incorporated places in the United States, around 76 percent (14,768) had fewer than 5,000 people,” the Census Bureau said. (more…)

texasFrom staff reports

It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the worst, either — and in parts, Texas is not so bad, an analysis of the state’s Best States ranking from U.S. News and World Report recently revealed.

The Lone Star State earned the 38th spot overall this year, with bright spots in fiscal stability and economy, ranking in the top 20 for both at 12 and 15, respectively.

But the state was dinged for opportunity and healthcare, as well as natural environment.

Infographic by CandysDirt.com/Data from US News and World Report

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electricityAs the mercury begins to rise, we all begin to think about our electricity bills. But how much per kilowatt hour do Texans pay? And how does that compare across the country? One data website created heat maps to illustrate just that.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Americans spend about 12.7 cents per kWh on average. But in Texas, we pay slightly less — 11.51, to be exact. That’s up slightly from last year’s average of 11.11.

Howmuch.net created heat maps that illustrate the average residential, commercial, and industrial rates across the country. We pulled Texas data specifically and created a handy chart, too.

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homestead

Photo courtesy Flickr

 

Easter is over, but we’re going to quote a rabbit anyway — if you’re waiting to file your homestead exemption for your property taxes, you may find yourself late, late, for a very important date.

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shutdownFor the most part, Texas is doing OK during U.S. government shut down, but it still is hitting the state’s most vulnerable citizens the hardest, according to a recent report on the states most and least affected by the 2019 shut down.

The report, compiled by analysts at WalletHub, compared all 50 states plus the District of Columbia across five metrics, including each state’s share of federal jobs to the share of families receiving food stamps.

“When the government shuts down, certain federal employees work without pay or receive a furlough,” the report explained. “This includes over 41,000 law enforcement officers, 52,000 IRS workers and 96 percent of NASA employees. ‘Non-essential’ government services also remain inactive and certain benefits are liable to run out of funding.” (more…)

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen took the gavel as Speaker of the House yesterday, and asked for cooperation across the aisles (Photo courtesy Rep. Bonnen’s Facebook page).

Bathrooms? That’s so 2017. The new hot legislative priorities lighting up Austin this legislative session are school finance and property taxes.

Think I’m kidding? New House Speaker Dennis Bonnen put it on a cup — actually, every cup in the Senate lounge is now emblazoned with “School Finance Reform, The Time Is Now.”

The session gaveled in knowing already that state Comptroller Glenn Hegar had told them that they would have about 8.1 percent more in funding available for public programs like schools and healthcare in the next two years, for about a $119.1 billion state budget. But he also cautioned legislators that they wouldn’t be able to make it rain — oil prices are falling and the U.S. economy is uncertain, leaving any prognostication as to how revenue will look a bit muddled.

But one couldn’t help but notice a sense of cooperation in both houses of the state legislature, one not generally felt in the last session, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick embarked on a much-lamented quest for passage of a bathroom bill and school vouchers, both of which failed.

Bonnen, in his address Tuesday, made a plea for more bipartisanship.

“In a state as big and diverse as Texas, there are plenty of ideas about what we should do on any one issue and these ideas often point in different directions,” Bonnen said. “It’s our job to reconcile the differences.”

The makeup of the two bodies is also different this time around. Democrats gained 12 seats in the house last November, with Republicans holding the Texas House with 83 seats to Democrats’ 67. In the Senate, there are 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Thanks to the three-fifths rule, a kill on an unpopular GOP bill like a bathroom bill would be just one Republican renegade away, unlike the last session, when the Democrats were outnumbered 20 to 10.

This pivot away from the unpopular bathroom bill, especially (Patrick even called it “settled” when asked about it Wednesday), bodes well for proponents of retooling public education finance, as well as property owners looking for relief from rising property taxes. (more…)

Pastors for Texas Children honored First United Methodist Church-Dallas senior minister Andy Stoker with its “Hero For Texas Children” award Thursday. Pictured, from left, Stoker, Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa, and Pastors for Texas Children executive director Charles Foster Johnson. (Photo courtesy Angela Patterson/FUMC-Dallas)

It may have been unusually — for Dallas — chilly Thursday morning, but the warmth inside First United Methodist Church downtown was effusive when an organization of faith leaders held a breakfast gathering to talk about their unified efforts to advocate for public education.

Pastors for Texas Children members were also there to honor the church’s senior minister, Andy Stoker, with their “Hero for Texas Children” award, recognizing him for leading his church in work to provide assistance and care for children in Dallas ISD schools. (more…)

Even people who follow public education are often unaware of how the General Land Office and the Texas Land Commissioner and the State Board of Education can impact public school finance.

And that is, in part, because up until this year, things between the two entities and the services and funding they make available to school districts were pretty copacetic. But now current Land Commissioner George P. Bush wants to make a change, and it’s put him at odds with pretty much every single member of the State Board of Education.

You see, the School Land Board — a three-person board lead by Bush — oversees the largest educational endowment in the country. The board has decided it will bypass the State Board of Education’s Permanent School fund and put $600 million directly into another fund that goes directly to schools. The SLB will also invest an additional $55 million.

This change could impact how much Texas schools can spend on textbooks, among other things.

The education board also uses the $41.4 billion PSF to back construction bonds so that school districts and charter schools can earn lower interest rates. (more…)