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Section D + HaysFreePress.com PUBLIC NOTICES SERVICE DIRECTORY December 8, 2010 Page 1D RNANClAL The holiday season is always a busy time of year, so you're probably pretty busy. But it is impor- tam to take some time now to evaluate year-end financial moves that may be beneficial in preparing for your financial future. Which year-end moves should you consider? You will want to talk to your financial advisor and tax and legal pro- fessionals first, but here are a few ideas to get you started: Boost your IRA contribu- tions. You have until April 15, 2011, to fully fund your IRA for the 2010 tax year, but the sooner you finish with your 2010 contribution, the quicker you can get started on your 2011 contribution - and the earlier in the year you fund your IRA, the more time you give your account the oppor- tunity to grow. Put more money into college savings plans. If you have a 529 college savings plan for yourself or someone else, consider putting more money in before year-end. You can gift up to $13,000 ($26,000 per married couple) per person per year without gift tax conse- quences. However, this must be accomplished by year-end. Be generous. If you've been thinking of making charitable gifts, don't put them offany longer. As long as you makea donation to a qualified charity before the year ends, you can claim a deduction on your 2010 tax return. For example, if you donate $100 to a charitable group [either a religious organization or one that has received 501 (c)(3) sta- tus from the Internal Revenue Service], and you're in the 25 percent tax bracket, you can deduct $100 (with a tax benefit of $25) when you file your taxes for 2010, providing, of course, that you itemize. If you donate stocks or other types of assets, you may also be able to save on capital gains taxes, because it will be the charity, not you, that eventually sells those assets. Sell your "losers." If you own investments that have lost value since you purchased them, you can sell them before 2010 ends and then use the tax loss to offset capital gains you may have earned in other investments. If you don't have any capital gains, you can use up to $3,000 of your tax losses to offset other ordinary income. If your loss is greater than $3,000, you can "carry over" the excess and deduct it from your taxes in future years. However, if you then want to repurchase the investment you sold, you'll need to wait at least 31 days to avoid violating the IRS' "wash sale" rules. Take capital gains. In 2011, the tax rate on long-term capital gains is scheduled to increase to 20 percent for most investors, up from the 15 percent rate it's been the last several years. If you have stocks or other appreciated as- sets that you were thinking of selling in the near future, you might want to do so before the year comes to a close. How- ever, it's generally not a good idea to make investment deci- sions strictly because of tax consequences. If your appreci- ated assets are still a part of ~'our overall financial strategy, ~,ou may be better offholding Hem for the long term, even Mth a higher capital gains -ate. Considering these moves ~efore the year ends may help rou better prepare to address tour financial picture in 2011. Edward]ones, its employ- ,es and financial advisors are wt tax advisors and cannot ;iue tax advice. Please consult ,our qualified tax professional egarding your situation. BY JENNIFER BIUNDO jen@haysfreepress.com "ays County's meteoric rise in foreclosures may have slowed in ~2010, but it didn't stop alto- gether. This year, 1,579 properties were listed for auction on the steps of the Hays County Courthouse, a 3.8 percent in- crease over the 1,520 properties posted in 2009. The final auction of the year, held Tuesday, saw 146 homes posted for auc- tion. Many of the listings were concen- trated in affordable subdivisions such as Shadow Creek and Indian Paintbrush, but upscale and high-dollar homes in Ruby Ranch and Belterra also faced the auction block. As the American housing crisis deepened into recession, foreclosure rates shot up across the nation, and Hays County was no exception. In 2008, just 970 properties were listed for foreclosure, representing an average of 81 per month. Over the course of 2009, those numbers shot up 57 percent, to a monthly average of 127. This year saw 132 listings per month, including an all- time high of 160 in March. Foreclosure listings in 2010 likely would have been higher without inter- ventions such as the federal Home Af- fordable Modification Program (HAMP), said Buda realtor David Aston, who 140 120 leO 80 6O O ......... .-,"O .. ,,.f:"":" ~'.... ..."' ..'"" ........ .............. O-..... . ....~ ...'" ""....~..,.." I I I 2003 2004 2005 2006 specializes in foreclosure sales. "They're doing everything they can to~ slow down or stop the foreclosures," As- ton said. "They're really holding off and they're doing a lot of loan modifications to try to keep those loans from going to foreclosure." Though foreclosures have increased, housing prices in Hays County were never significantly over-valued, and as a result they've held fairly steady, Aston noted. "We've never really seen a real big bubble that burst," Aston said. "We had nice, slow and steady increases. Fortunately we haven't seen any sharp declines, but we have seen some slow declines." I I I I 2007 2008 2009 2010 MarilynVan Uum, a Buda sales ex- ecutive for Gracy Title Company, agreed with that a~sessment. "Hays County is much more afford- able than many other areas," Van Uum said. "I think that's the reason why we've seen some dropping in home prices, but not to the degree that you would see in other areas." The Multiple Listings Service (MLS) breaks Hays County into four real estate regions, including San Marcos, Wimber- ley, Dripping Springs and Buda/I(yle. In the most recent data from October, home prices were down slightly Buda/ Kyle area compared to the same month from the year prior. This October, the average selling price was $164,412, down 3.9 percent from the average selling price of $171,165 in 2009. The median sales price was $150,000, down 2.9 percent from the median of $155,000 in October of 2009. By contrast, the average selling price was $183,123 near the peak of the boom in lanuary of 2008. The average days on the market nearly doubled in that time period, from 48 days to 93 days. Some of those increasing numbers of foreclosures may simply reflect the skyrocketing growth of the Hays County population as a whole, especially in the eastern IH-35 corridor. Kyle's popula- tion was estimated at about 11,600 in 2003, and now may number as high as 32,000. Hays County was estimated at 116,000 in 2003, and about 155,000 by the end of 2009. The growth in Kyle was especially concentrated in the first half of the decade, exceeding 20 percent in every year from 2000 - 2005. Many younger couples flocked to the inexpensive starter home subdivisions of Kyle and Buda, where they could find a new three bedroom home with a yard for as little as $130,000, well below the prices in neighboring Austin. Unemployment in the greater Austin area is now 8.1 percent, below the national rate of 9.8 percent, but still elevated over pre-recession levels. "A lot of the foreclosures we're seeing See FORECLOSURE, pg. 4D 9 BY REEVE HAMILTON has devoted most of her practice to they were misled into believing that to drum up this story," he says. "But hounding "proprietary" or "career" their psychology doctoral program the basic fact remains that you have The Texas Tribune colleges for failing to make good on was in the process of being accredited 2.8 million students in career schools, their claims, by the American Psychological Asso- and they're getting a good education." The pitch at these schools -- ITT alias personal, injury lawyer She's not alone in her focus. Career ciation -- landed a prime-time slot on Technical Institute, Everest Institute | |Julie lohnsons foray into the colleges find themselves in the hot PBS's Frontline. fight against private, for-profit seat this year, as U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, Bob Cohen, senior vice president and Kaplan College are some of the colleges began with a handful of D-Iowa, leads federal hearings on the of the Career College Association, more pervasive names in Texas -- is simple: Without the hassles of de- would-be interior designers,need to regulate for-profit recruitment a national coalition of proprietary velopmental courses and required A few years ago, a group of students practices and the warnings of hedge- schools, dismisses what he describes liberal arts courses, students can get had come to Johnson for help: They fund manager Steven Eisman (who as seff-interested detractors who tend career-focused training and join the had forked over thousands of dol- famously predicted the crash of the to generalize isolated incidents for the wolkforce in less time. Cohen says for- lars at a private, for-profit school, but housing market) that the student loan sake of publicity."A lot of what we're profit schools avoid what he duSs the their non-accreditedcourse work market is the next bubble to burst. seeing is the attempt by short-sellers didn't pass muster for an interior And one of Johnson's most recent cas- on Wall Street or trial lawyers who design license. Since then, Johnson es-- Dallas-based students claiming have made a specialty practice to trySee FOR-PROFIT, pg. 4D nate incentive BY BEN PHILPOTF The Texas Tribune Gov. Rick Perry's office has asked a member of the Emerging Technology Fund s advisory committee to consider resigning over a recent investigation into a stock deal- the latest dustup involving state incentive funds, which state lawmak- ers may target in the next legislative session. The Emerging Technology Fund provides money for research into future money-making technologies. A similar effort, the Texas Enterprise Fund, encourages companies to move to Texas or expand their operations in the state. AndrewWheat of Texans for Public lusticel a progressive watchdog group, believes that over the past year, the Hear audio with this story at haysfreepress.com funds have been used as little more than a campaign tool for Perry's re- election bid. "On the one hand, you are presenting something to the vot- ers as being an unmitigated success that makes you particularly qualified for re-election," Wheat says. %nd on the other hand, it's your office that's charged with administering the pro- gram itself." For years, both Republican and Democrats have criticized the funds. Some think the government shouldn't be picking favorites in the free market by using state tax dollars, while oth- ers worry about how the money is distributed. State Rep. lira Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the chairman of the House Appro- priations Committe, thinks the funds should remain in place as long as the governor's office is removed from the equation. DUring the 2009 legislative session, PittS took issue with a $50 million granl awarded to Texas A&M University-perry's alma mater- to build a pharmaceutical research lab, grillingibe governor's office ola the money and aSking Texas A&M of- ficials why they chose the Enterprise Fund to secu~re funding."Whyd you go to the governors office to build a building? And are we going to have that from now on? Instead of going through the Legislature for a univer- sity to build a building, you're going to go to the governor's office," Pitts said during a committee hearing. No matter who administers the hnds after the 2011 session, both will /ikely have less money to hand out, with lawmakers trimming billions of dollars from the next state budget. But Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger says they're still a worthy investment for the Legislature and taxpayers. "We can see the return on those investments - whether that means the emerging technolo- gies into the marketplace here in Texas, the commercialization of those technologies here in Texas, as well as continuing to attract businesses from all over the country," Cesinger says. Ben 1?~r~.~-,~_~_-~.~ ~ Texas Tribune, where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership be- tween the Texas Tribune and the Hays Free Press. 4r 4