Category: Public Interest

The Rent vs. Buy Calculation

The New York Times did an interesting story on the question of whether it’s better to rent or buy a home now, given the beating that house prices have gone through in the last 18+ months.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/business/economy/21leonhardt.html

The article includes extensive analysis, it seems, including a city-by-city rating of those markets in which you’re better off buying, those you’re better off renting. Memphis is included, and is scored as what I’d call a 50/50 market — neither renting nor buying is high risk. Which would seem like a good thing to me, reflecting the fact that home prices are neither too high or too low.

There’s also a nifty rent vs. buy calculator. I love online calculators.

Northwest, Delta & The Memphis Airport

I spent far too much time in a number of different airports over the last few days, including a number of visits to the single worst airport in the United States: ATL, the Atlanta airport.

I was thinking about this in the context of our recent article on ongoing improvements to the Memphis Airport, a starkly different article in the New York Times today about delayed and canceled improvement projects at many other airports nationwide, and the steady and perhaps ominous (for Memphis, at least) replacement of Northwest Airlines signage with Delta signage that I saw during my trip.

Atlanta is the worst US airport I’ve ever used. It’s not for a lack of amenities: there appear to be a nearly unlimited range of dining, entertainment and retail options throughout the airport. The concourses are architecturally interesting. The high windows offer beautiful, panoramic views.

The problem is that I’m never able to use or enjoy any of these apparently wonderful options or features because, in Atlanta, I’m always sprinting from Concourse A to Concourse D, bag in tow, frantic because, as always, I’ve arrived late.

In all my years traveling, I’m not sure I’ve ever not been late arriving in Atlanta only to find that, after sprinting across the airport, my flight is delayed, be it an official delay that leaves you wandering around the gate hoping for some news or explanation of what’s going on, or the unofficial “we’re 19th in line to take off” delay that gets you in your seat on time but leaves you rolling across the tarmac at a somewhat sub-supersonic 2 MPH.

On one recent trip, the pilot actually announced, “It’ll take longer to get to the runway today than the flight itself will take.” I thought it was an expected but welcome bit of irony from the pilot. It wasn’t. I fell asleep on the plane, woke up thinking we must be in the air, but then realized we were still only number 3 for takeoff.

All this makes me hope that Memphis does in fact benefit from the Northwest/Delta merger by taking some flights from the obviously overburdened Atlanta airport. I’m sure Delta will make its decisions about cutbacks or expansions in service at the Memphis airport entirely on cost and profits, which is fine. But one has to think — or maybe it’s just hope — that all those delays in Atlanta must result in some sort of additional cost, some diminishment of profit, that could be addressed by utilizing Memphis more, not less.

Memphis is an imperfect airport — a number of truly surreal delays in getting luggage from baggage claim come to mind and the airport lacks the amenities and architectural grandeur that swept through so many airports over the last decades. But it’s a perfectly pleasant, thoroughly manageable airport that, for the time being at least, will get you anywhere you want to go. Let’s hope it stays that way — or even gets better.

Posted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, The Memphis News and Chandler Reports.

The Impossible Dream: A Grocery Store in Midtown?

All I can say is Yes! Andy Meek has the story that Midtown is a big step closer to having a new grocery store, this one at Overton Square. As someone who’s lived and worked in Midtown and Downtown for 13 years now, the prospect of a new, clean, well-organized and properly run grocery store within a short driving distance is almost too much to handle.

The company, Associated Wholesale Grocers, operates different types of grocery stores around the country. If the deal goes through, which isn’t certain, it’s not yet clear which type of AWG store will be built. Let’s hope it’s a Thriftway, though. I’ve been to Thriftway stores up in the Pacific Northwest and they are usually great.

The impossible dream.

The holy grail.

The cliche’s abound.

What’s it say about my age that I’m so excited about this? Sigh.

Regardless, I’m excited. And if a grocery store does go in at the big retail development at Poplar and Cleveland, as is possible, then us Midtowners could actually have options for shopping. The dream, the dream.

(And it’s pretty cool that Andy broke this newest development, since the news itself has over the years sparked remarkably fierce competition among us, The CA and The MBJ — a competitiveness second only to coverage of a possible Target in Midtown. Andy? Any update on the Target?)

What about the children?

Looks like the recommendation by the city administration to lower the tax rate lasted less than a week:

http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=42136

The Taxman Cometh

Here’s some good news for city of Memphis taxpayers. It’s appearing increasingly likely the city’s tax rate of $3.25 per $100 of assessed value will be lower once the Memphis City Council sets a new tax rate for the coming fiscal year.

Right now, the current tax rate of $3.25 means someone with a $150,000 home pays $1,218.75 a year in city property taxes.

Because 2009 is a reappraisal year, the city – and all local governments in Tennessee – must first identify what’s called a certified tax rate before they set an official tax rate. The certified tax rate is whatever tax rate will give that government the same amount of revenue it brought in last year.

That extra step only occurs during reappraisal years. The point of that extra step in setting a new tax rate is to prevent governments from reaping a windfall on the backs of property owners whose property appreciates in value.

Once a certified tax rate is calculated, the governing body can then move from there and either leave that figure as the new official tax rate – or, if a tax increase is deemed necessary, the certified tax rate can be raised.

It’s an important step that might seem like a complicated bit of bureaucracy. But it directly affects a taxpayer’s pocketbook.

Think of it this way: if city officials leave the city’s tax rate at $3.25 for next year’s budget, it looks like no change has been made. We didn’t raise the tax rate, they might say. Let’s have a round of applause.

But if the tax rate remained $3.25 during this particular year, that would mean the city, in fact, did implement a property tax hike.

It would mean a lower certified rate was identified, and then that rate was raised back up to $3.25.

City finance director Roland McElrath, however, has twice in public this week said a lower certified rate will be calculated. And that the city administration will then recommend leaving it untouched.

“After the certified tax rate is set, there’s no plan to raise it above the certified tax rate,” McElrath told council members Thursday night.

Dansette

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