Thursday, September 27, 2012
San Antonio leads Texas cities in per capita debt, according to a new report from the State Comptroller's office. The report, called "Your Money and Your Debt", finds that San Antonio has $9.4 billion in debt, which is $7,100 for each of its 1,327,407 citizens, My San Antonio.com reports.
Bexar County voters have voted in the last few years to use a hotel occupancy tax to pay for sports facilities and public parks to be upgraded, as well as the county issuing $500 million in bonds for flood control projects. The county and the city both have the highest bond rating with all three bond agencies.
While the Comptroller said the report should show how cities need to be more conservative about asking their citizens to fund new projects through their taxes, crtics pointed out that cities are shouldering more financial burden as the state decreases funding and increases mandates. The cost for public schools, hospitals and roads fall to local municipalities as the Legislature continues to make budget cuts.
Texas has $40.5 billion of outstanding state debt and $192.7 billion of outstanding local debt, including $63.6 billion held by school districts. The report says that Texas has the lowest amount of state debt of the 10 states with the highest population, but is number two for local debt burdens.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Clean your pantry in 10 minutes. Does that sound too good to be true? It's not, promise! The Kitchn has six ways you can straighten up your pantry this very evening.
Make sure all the labels are facing out so you can see what you've got and stack like items. You should also group similar items and flavors together. For example, keep all the ingredients that go into Mexican food together, Asian food, etc. That way you can get all the stuff you need for your meal at the same time without wasting time digging through the pantry.
Next, use a wet dishrag to wipe up all the dust, flour, and other assorted muck that's accumulated on your shelves. You should also make sure that everything you've got on hand is still good. Check the expiration dates and toss anything that's no longer fit to eat.
While you're tidying up your pantry, use a post-it note to make a list of meals you can make from what you've already got in your pantry. This will result in less waste, lower grocery bills, and might keep you from ordering take out on a night when you're exhausted.
Finally, if your dishes also reside in the pantry, wipe out any dust from the bowls, straighten the plates and make sure all your dishware is in its proper place.
Monday, September 24, 2012
WTA realizes the importance of using our resources to give back to our community. To that end, we have participated in raising money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the last 4 years. WTA's Go Pink Campaign has raised almost $13,000 for breast cancer awareness, treatment and research and in 2012, our fifth year, we want to raise at least $3,000 through our Passionately Pink Campaign for Susan G. Komen. 75% of the funds raised stay in the five county area: Travis, Williamson, Caldwell, Hays and Bastrop.
WTA is proud that in 2011 we were one of the top 20 Austin fundraisers for the Susan G Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure. Our team, "Forever Young", named in honor of our very own Natalie Young, a breast cancer survivor and Ford Warriors in Pink Model of Courage, had 13 racers from 3 cities and raised more than $2,500.
We need your help to make 2012 our best year yet! If you are an onsite, you can mark your referrals 'Susan G Komen' and we will donate an EXTRA $25 to Susan G Komen on top of your referral fee through November 4th, 2012. Want to do a little more? You can spend some face time with us by joining our race team, Forever Young! You can also donate on your own to the Forever Young fundraising team.
Thank you so much for your support as we continue to race towards the goal of ending this disease.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Weekly Meal Planning can sometimes seem like a chore, but if you can make yourself plan what you're going to eat each week, you can save money, eat healthier, and will relieve yourself of a lot of stress. So let The Kitchn turn you in to a planning expert!
Their first tips are to help you get inspired. Look at recipes every week, whether it be online, in magazines, in cookbooks, wherever! Next, make a simple system to save those recipes. Make it something that works for you and that you'll commit to. Ask your loved ones or roommates what they like to eat when you're planning so you can make sure they're enjoying your selections as well! Also, look at the weather forecast so if it's going to be rainy Wednesday, you can tuck in with a nice bowl of soup, or if it's hot, you can munch on a salad. Keep a meal diary so you can look back on what you've cooked before and maybe rediscover some old favorites.
Now it's time to get organized. First, create a calendar with what you'd like to make over the next week or month. Another great suggestion is to do theme nights (fish night, pizza night, etc.). This is especially great if you have kids and is an opportunity to get them involved. Pick a shopping day and make your shopping list based on the recipes you're creating. Don't forget to check your grocery store circular to see what's on sale so you can save a few bucks. And plan for leftovers! If you make a little extra, you can bring it to work in your lunch.
Okay, get to work! Prep that food as soon as you're home from the grocery store, washing and drying lettuce, chopping onions, roasting vegetables, etc. Then put those prepped ingredients in the fridge. You can even cook parts of your meals at the same time, like making pasta sauce for pizza and lasagna, or a roasted chicken that can be that night's dinner and sandwiches and pasta for the rest of the week. Don't forget to double some recipes and freeze half for later in the month. Keep your fridge from being stuffed and keep a list of what's in there so nothing goes bad before you can eat it. Also, keep your pantry well-stocked so you can cook at a moment's notice. Now get cooking!
Thursday, September 13, 2012
The West Nile Virus outbreak that has gripped the country, and Texas in particularly, will most likely be the worst on record, but there is hope that things are improving, My San Antonio.com reports.
Bexar County saw its 16th and 17th cases yesterday, but health officials said that the risk to people of contracting the virus was most likely going down. However, because of the delay in reporting and the fact that deaths can happen months after contracting the disease, it's very likely that the numbers of cases and deaths being reported will continue to rise.
West Nile virus outbreaks in the U.S. usually reach their apex in mid to late August and the cases go down in the fall due to the temperature dropping and the day getting shorter. Mosquitoes tend to hibernate and stop biting people as the sun sets earlier. However, officials warned that people should still take precautions such as wearing long pants and long sleeves when outside at dusk and dawn, emptying standing water, and using insect repellent containing DEET.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control have had 2,636 cases reported and 118 deaths. Nearly half of all the cases have been in Texas. Texas' official count as of Tuesday was 1,182 cases and 53 deaths, mostly in North Texas. The majority of deaths are from the neuroinvasive form of West Nile. Currently, it looks like 2012 will see more of those type of cases than any other year, so most likely it will also have the most deaths.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Welcome Fall into your home with Apartment Therapy's help. Okay, it may seem ridiculous to be welcoming fall when Austin is still seeing temps in the 90's (and last week it soared well into the triple digits), but it will be here before you know it. In the meantime, get your apartment ready!
As soon as the temperature drops at night, change your bed linens to something warmer and in a darker, richer fall-inspired hue. The change of the season is also a great opportunity to turn your mattress and give your pillows a good washing or buy news ones if necessary. If you know how to sew, give sewing your own duvet a whirl to save some cash.
Want your walls to also announce that it's time for Jack-o-lanterns, warm apple cider and sweaters? Trade your wall art out for something that fits with the season. Take down the summery prints and consider putting up a wall hanging such as a quilt or tapestry you may already have gathering dust in the linen closet. Adding candles, particularly if they are in a spicy cinnamon or apple pie scent, really makes your home feel like fall, no matter what the thermometer says.
Consider changing out the decorative pillows on your couch and adding a couple of throw blankets for warming up on cold nights. You can buy covers for the pillows you have or even make your own.
If you have a fireplace, clean it out so it's ready for use. If your fireplace is decorative, think about dressing it for the season with objects like pumpkins, logs, tea lights, etc. Also, to keep the muck and leaves associated with fall from being tracked through your house, place a boot tray just inside your door.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Furniture arrangement can be tricky, but when you get the placement correct, the room just feels right. About.com helps you make sure your furniture isn't keeping your room from perfection.
The first step is to get all the furniture out of the room and start with a blank slate. This can be super-difficult, especially if you are in a small apartment, but the effort is worth it so you can really start clean. Next, make a decision on what your focal point will be. This is the focus around which you will base the rest of the room. It can be something like a fireplace, a view out a window, or artwork.
Next, you want to place your largest piece of furniture. In the living room, this is your couch, in your bedroom, it's going to be your bed, and in the dining room, it will be the table. This piece of furniture should face the focal point and needs to be placed correctly or else the entire room will be off. Make sure to allow easy movement through the room. You don't want to have to dodge a table to get out of your living room. Think about how the room will be used, will it mostly see family gatherings, wild parties, sleeping and playing, etc. and place your largest piece accordingly. Also, don't block doorways, windows, or views to other rooms.
Now it's time to bring in your other furniture, making sure its placement enhances and works with your main piece and your focal point. If one of the smaller pieces doesn't play well with the main piece and the focal point, it should be eighty-sixed from the room. As you place your pieces, remember to consider traffic flow, scale and proportion of how the pieces work together, and keep some pieces pulled away from the wall to make it feel airy.
Now enjoy your new perfectly laid out room!
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Texas public employees could see their pension plans change dramatically if conservative activists have their way. Activists are calling on the legislature to get rid of the guaranteed retirement benefit for new employees as a way for the state to save money, Statesman.com reports.
The state's two largest pension funds are currently considered to be doing well. They have over three-quarters of the assets necessary to cover their obligations. The Employees Retirement System of Texas has enough to pay benefits for the next seven decades. Employee advocates say that the critics are trying to use other states' underfunded pension systems to overhaul the Texas one.
Conservative groups are in favor of moving new employees to a 401(k) type system, while keeping current employees in the pension system. However, recent reports caution against such a change, saying that it would do nothing to decrease the unfunded liability and might cost the state even more because the new employees would no longer be contributing to the pension fund.
In contrast to other states that have seen conflicts with public sector employees, in Texas, state employees don't have the ability to bargain collectively and their benefits and compensation are actually lower than the private sector. However, these differences may not stop the conservative lawmakers from having a showdown over benefits in the next session.