Tag Archives: california

More taxing times

Tax Day is next Thursday, so in honor of all the last-minute procrastinators out there (and the accountants who help them!), here are few final tips and stories about tax season from around the country.

In Maryland, volunteers who just couldn’t get enough fun doing their own taxes are opening their slates to help low-income families get their taxes done — an important task, because many low-income filers are missing out on a big credit.

Georgia Samios of WYPR in Baltimore reports:

Here at Ray of Hope Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore, volunteers are helping low income people fill out tax returns. They want to make sure that those who qualify get the earned income tax credit, which can literally put money in people’s pockets. .. That means more people are covered, says the Internal Revenue Service’s Peggy Riley.
“It’s a big expansion over other years, and with the amount of unemployment we’re figuring many more people will probably qualify for the earned income tax credit this year,” she says.

A similar volunteer program is underway in Seattle, where the public library is home base to help people get their taxes done. This year, there’s more confusion as many of those seeking help are underemployed or unemployed.

NPR’s Wendy Kaufman reports:

The pain is evident at the Seattle Public Library. Part of the library’s fifth floor has been turned into tax central for the past several weekends. Low-income people are getting free help in filing their tax returns.
Courtney Noble of the United Way is in charge of the program.
“We see more people every year — and this year, we see a lot of our same customers from last year,” Noble said.

In California, tax credits passed down to homeowners from a bill passed in the 1970s are causing intense debate as the state faces a budget crunch.

In San Diego, where the housing crisis hit particularly hard last year, residents are facing off with legislators as tax time approaches and the county stands to bring in less money in property taxes. California Proposition 13 passed more than 30 years ago and gave huge tax breaks to homeowners, aiming at helping them stay in their homes and not be “taxed out” over time. But now the state is questioning the law’s relevance. KPBS produced a recent special The Legacy of Prop. 13 analyzing the bill’s influence.

Joanne Faryon reports on Prop. 13′s impact:

Prop 13 locked in property assessments at 1 percent of the purchase price, and limited yearly increases to 2 percent. The result: California has among the lowest property tax rates in the country. In fact, more then half of all the homes in San Diego County are assessed below market value.

For last minute tips, Nightly Business Report continues it series with Kiplinger’s Kevin McCormally. Recent tips include help Supercharging You Standard Deduction and changes in Demutualized Stock Sales.

California crunch

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that California is in a major crunch these days, and not the granola kind. The budget crisis has gotten so bad that in Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has threatened to shut down the entire city government for two days a week to save money.

KPCC’s Air Talk had the mayor on to address threats facing the city’s Department of Water and Power from ratings agencies, and options to keep the city afloat beyond a partial shut down.

Villaraigosa told KPCC’s David Lazarus:

It’s not something that I want to do. But it’s something we need to look at and discuss. … Clearly we don’t’ have a lot of options where we know that we don’t have the cash to pay employees. We are liable to them when we ask them to work, knowing we don’t thave the cash to pay them.

In the comments section of the KPCC page, concerned LA residents left pressing questions about other budget issues hitting City Hall, like early retirement payments for city employees and furloughs for municipal departments outside of the general budget.

LA school budgets are also being cut. That’s drawing some Hollywood names to make the issue a hit online, like in this Funny or Die video with Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, who visited Wonderland Avenue Elementary School in LA to get their point across about overcrowding and budget cuts:

It’s not just LA that’s affected. Earlier this month, protests against budget cuts for schools were held in northern California. Youth Radio reporters caught up with protesters in Berkeley.

Waving signs that read “No Cuts” and “Defend Public Education,” the crowd of around 150 people included elementary school student Eliza Fosket Hyde, 7, who made a homemade sign “We want money for pableck shools.”

Ripe for recession

Strawberries/Credit: Flickr/ClayIrving

Strawberries/Credit: Flickr/ClayIrving

Every Tuesday, I cook dinner with a friend of mine to save some money by cooking at home and improving our kitchen skills. This week is her turn at the stove, but I’m bringing strawberries for dessert. Why? Well, in the spirit of frugal cooking, imagine my excitement when I saw strawberries for 88 cents a pound at my local supermarket. I was pretty stoked, but with a little research learned that low prices for me means bad news for strawberry farmers as the height of the season approaches.

It’s the cold winter on the east coast that’s permitted Florida strawberries to flood the market, just as California’s growing season gets underway. Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal spoke with Plant City, Florida farmer Gary Wishnatzki about the surplus.

Typically in mid-February growers will plant in the same bed spring crop like melons, eggplant, tomatoes or cucumbers, but by late March the two crops begin to compete for room and at that point the grower will just come in and twist off the strawberry plants to give the spring crop room to grow. This year the extended cold slowed the strawberry harvest down.

Savings blog WalletPop also picked up on the strawberry bounty, reporting that prices in Ohio are also low, coming in at around $2.50 per pint. WalletPop even had some suggestions of what to make if you (like me) have found yourself with a fridge full of strawberries.

How can you take advantage of the deals being offered in local groceries? One of my favorites is freezer jam, which avoids all that messy pouring of wax caps. By the same process you can make a killer ice-cream topping by thinning down the mix.

One WalletPop writer took her bounty and managed to make strawberry tacos (or galettes, if you’re more Martha).

While strawberry prices have crashed this year, the cost of land to grow them on is still high. Why is that, if real estate prices in urban and industrial areas are still dropping due to the mortgage crisis? PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman found out why from agricultural economist Gerald Nelson:

Agricultural land is driven by future agricultural prices. And while we are off the highs of 2008, agricultural prices are still high and the expectation is that they will continue to be high.

Have you seen other unexpected deals on produce this season at your local store?

Day of action for education

Students and education advocates in California took to the streets today to protest budget cuts to public school programs. Youth Radio’s correspondents were following the story and collecting perspectives.

Asked what she thinks California will look like in ten years given what’s happening in public education today, 21-one-year-old Taylor Kohles said, “We need to change our priorities and fully fund education. If that doesn’t happen, it will create an education gap.”

Twenty-year-old UC Berkeley student Eddie Rivero said he has friends who will have to drop out of school because they’re undocumented immigrants who can’t get financial aid and are paying part of their tuition with scholarships. He said they won’t be able to cover costs as tuition rises.

For more on the protests, check out Youth Radio’s Twitter list of Day of Action participants.