According to The Texas Tribune, the Texas Senate’s new Property Tax Committee passed an amended version of a bill, SB 2, that would further limit the amount local governments and special districts can spend without voters stepping in, but Parker County Judge Pat Deen said lowering the revenue cap could have a negative impact.
SB 2 would require an election when local governments want to collect an additional 2.5 percent or more in tax revenues from existing properties, regardless of the total taxable values assigned to properties, according to The Texas Tribune. The cap limits the amount of total revenue a local government can bring in without voter approval, even if its tax rate is not increased.
“I want to be clear here. At my core I do not believe property tax is the best system to fund county services. I would like to see a sales tax funding system. That being said, having one of the lower county property tax rates in the state, we want to continue to be able to fund the services we provide and find ways to reduce our property tax rate even more,” Deen said. “The governor [Greg Abbott] has declared this as an emergency item for the legislative session; however, solutions like revenue caps that state lawmakers are considering could negatively impact cities, counties and our school districts.”
According to The Texas Tribune, lawmakers of both parties admit the 2.5 percent election trigger could be raised as the bill works through the process and while language in the current version of the bill would apply to school districts — and could force the state to spend more of its own money on public education — Senate officials and staffers said such provisions are just a placeholder until the legislature tackles school finance reform with separate legislation.
Abbott said the voters demanded this in a previous Tribune article.
“It’s a testament to the voters in this state,” Abbott said. “The voters demanded this, and this demonstrates that the Texas legislature is responsive to the needs of our voters.”
Deen said the lowering of the revenue cap would affect services.
“I believe lowering the revenue cap would negatively impact our ability to provide essential services such as keeping important records, building roads, maintaining the courts and jails and many other services essential to our residents,” Deen said. “It is my opinion that the legislature should look more to address school funding. The majority of property taxes go to our school districts.”
In a poll done by The Texas Tribune earlier this month, 72 percent support requiring local governments to ask voters before raising property tax revenues more than a set amount.
Although the Senate tax committee passed its version of the property tax reform bill, it has not yet been debated by the fuller upper chamber, according to The Texas Tribune. The Texas House of Representatives deliberated the bill for about 12 hours taking public comments.
Currently, voters can petition to have an election if revenue growth surpasses 8 percent.
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, the committee chair who began the proceedings on the reform bill, said he was open to other rates, but explained by he filed the bill at 2.5 percent, according to The Texas Tribune.
“If property taxes continue to go up year after year at 8 percent, they will double in nine years,” Burrows said. “At 4 percent, it takes now 17 years to double and 35 years to quadruple. And at 2.5 precent, it takes 28 years for somebody’s property taxes to double and 56 years for them to quadruple.”
Weatherford Democrat reporter Autumn Owens contributed to