Property tax sticker shock


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes today about the sticker shock property owners are having when they open their property tax bills. The taxes have gone up in general, but property owners are frosted because their assessments no longer match the real market value of their houses.

The reality is that property values are generally down, and municipalities that use some variation of “market value” for their assessments are treading on thin ice.

The newspaper reports on a property owner whose assessment went from $140,500 to $173,100.  The tax bill went up 27%, or $871. The homeowner says he couldn’t sell his house for $173,100 even if he wanted to.

Last week I was on CNBC’s personal finance show On The Money talking about this issue. I successfully fought my assessment last year, and encourage other homeowners to do the same.

I encourage homeowners to challenge their assessments if they can prove that they are out of line with market values. Local governments are going to have trouble, though, if property owners object in large numbers. The government still wants the same amount of money, so they’ll have to do a large rate increase to keep the cash flowing their way. This would mean that even if you are successful at having your assessment reduced, you might still pay the same amount of property taxes.

And in other “breaking” news: More than a month after a database of Milwaukee Public Schools spending was made public, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is finally reporting it. Why would the Journal Sentinel neglect to make a timely report of an issue so critical to taxpayers?

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the article: “MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said MPS officials believe they have adequate controls over spending and they monitor bills to see that they are appropriate.”

I disagree. MPS doe note have adequate controls over spending. The district keeps contending that it has been cut to the bone and there are simply no areas in which to reduce spending. This database proves the exact opposite.  When are taxpayers going to demand that MPS quit wasting their money?

Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme Investor Losses: Recovery?


If you watch television, read the newspaper, or surf news sites, you’re sure to have hears about the $50 billion Ponzi scheme masterminded by Bernard Madoff.

The $50 billion in losses is merely an estimate. Some experts (like me) think that the actual losses will be much higher.

Stockbroker Fraud Blog discusses several options victims have for recovery:

  • Securities Industry Protection Corporation (SIPC) could provide up to $500,000 per account. (Although I think the customers of the “investment advisory” business which is allegedly where the Ponzi scheme occurred won’t qualify. Only regular brokerage accounts would qualify. And fraud doesn’t qualify either, only unauthorized trading or theft. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.) Continue reading

The History of Patrick Byrne’s Sith Lord


If you like to read about delusional rantings and paranoid conspiracy theories, you can’t help but follow full-time message board poster Patrick Byrne. He moonlights as the CEO of failing online retailer (NASDAQ:OSTK), but his real purpose in life is uncovering conspiracies.

The funny thing is that if Byrne was a little more lucid, someone might listen to him. Is there corruption on Wall Street? Of course. Is it the grand conspiracy by which financial reporters take their orders from hedge fund managers and write whatever will make the hedgies billions of dollars? I doubt it. But that’s Byrne’s theory. Continue reading

Timmay as Fraudbuster?


Penny stock trader, author, entrepreneur Timothy Sykes (aka Timmay) has put on his little detective hat and found a fraud in progress. Being promoted by none other than CNBC “reporter” Sri Jegarajah. Timmay makes an excellent point…. Networks like CNBC aren’t about serious news or reporting. They’re about entertainment and advertising dollars.

And by not being skeptical about the stories they’re “reporting,” they are doing a huge disservice to all those who think that they’re credible just because they’re called CNBC. But the CNBC guy made a huge mistake… he somehow took the words of a paid promoter and thought that this was credible research.

Here’s a snippet of what Timmay had to say… great research… and apparently not all that hard for anyone who bothered to look. Continue reading