From Charles Blain over at Urban Reform:
For the first time in two decades, Harris County Commissioners Court is proposing to raise the property tax rate for county residents. The newly proposed rate is 0.65260 per $100 of value, up from last year’s 0.62998.
I haven’t been following their budget discussions, so I can’t comment on whether or not they need the funding. But I can comment on the so-called “effective tax rate” sham and tell you how the two Republican members of the court, Steve Radack and Jack Cagle, can stop it if they wish.
First though, a couple of tweets from the Taxman, Paul Bettencourt:
Today’s action by HC Comm Court is the first proposed overall property tax rate increase in over 20 years…on top of a booming appraisal roll. The new proposed rate is $0.65260 per $100 of value. This is a “maximum smash” on taxpayers!
HC Comm Court proposes breaking the back of taxpayers! Despite $448B record tax roll, proposes double digit tax increase (11.7%) for the avg home, 10% more overall revenue, before #SB2 comes into effect This is $131 to be taken from avg taxpayers.
That seems like a pretty big increase to me. Not sure the population increase plus inflation has been that high.
But about that “effective tax rate”. They call it “truth in taxation” but it is anything but. It is a sham. It is so complicated that no one really understands it and it creates a false impression that you are raising taxes higher than you are if you simply try to match the same revenue as last year.
I know this because I am the mayor of a small city dealing with it. If our council adopts the “effective tax rate” we will actually be raising a substantial amount of money LESS than we did last year. If they adopt a rate that raises EXACTLY the same amount of money as we raised last year, our citizens will claim that they are RAISING taxes. Which is simply not true but our state government is so screwed up that it requires us to publish this nonsense. So take the ETR with a grain of salt. If you don’t think I’m right, click here to view the calculations for Harris County.
And there is a simple way for Commissioners Radack and Cagle to stop it. Two commissioners in Lubbock County just provided the blueprint.
Two Lubbock County Commissioners used a “no-show” vote at the Sept. 9, 2019 meeting to try and stop a tax increase.
The Lubbock County Commissioners met on Monday, intending to set a budget and set the tax rate, but because two of the commissioners were ‘no shows,’ the county was forced to adopt an amended budget and accept the effective tax rate by default.
Here is the relevant Texas law that allows Commissioners Radack and Cagle to block the increase:
(a) Three members of the commissioners court constitute a quorum for conducting county business except the levying of a county tax.
(b) A county tax may be levied at any regularly scheduled meeting of the court when at least four members of the court are present.
(c) A county may not levy a tax unless at least three members of the court vote in favor of the levy.
So if they truly believe that this tax increase is out of line, they can block it. It is that simple.
The question is, will they? It’s more complicated than you think, politically. Radack will be in a tough re-election battle next year, if he chooses to run. If he and Cagle decide to block the increase, the treatment in the press will be brutal and negative. If they choose to accept it and attend the meetings, then they can vote no and have a campaign issue to run on, fighting those low-down, tax raising Democrats. Knowing full well that they could have stopped it.
Hey, it’s politics.