Budget writers in the Texas Senate are discussing legislation aimed at reducing the growth of property taxes. But local and county leaders say the Republican-led bill would hamstring how much revenue they can raise to pay for essential services.
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s bill, Senate Bill 2, takes aim at how much local governments can collect in property taxes without voter approval. Bettencourt told the Senate’s Finance Committee on Tuesday the growth and expansion of a city or county should not financially fall on the backs of its homeowners.
“That’s why this has got to come down to where we get government growing in single digits again, not double digits anymore because that’s what’s been driving tax bills, it’s spending and the growth of government."
Opponents of the bill say it would cap city and county revenues by lowering local governments’ rollback tax rate from 8-percent down to 4-percent.
Cities and counties use this rollback rate to determine the tax rate. As property values increase, the tax rate goes down and vice versa. Once that rate reaches over 8 percent, voters can petition their local taxing entity to lower that rate back down to 8 percent. Bettencourt’s bill would keep the local tax rate at 4 percent or lower.
Local leaders like the City of San Antonio’s Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell says having the flexibility to lower and raise property tax rates is essential for how cities plan their annual budget.
“You’re going to have negative growth in property values, you’re going to have high growth, the 8 percent current rollback rate works well because it gives us the flexibility to manage within all those different economic conditions.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says having that flexibility also helps local government determine how many police officers a growing area will need to respond to traffic accidents, fires, and crime.
“There are some years that crime spikes, that’s what we have right now I might add, other years we’ve gone below.”
Wolff met with House Speaker Joe Straus on Tuesday to discuss how the bill might be amended in the House.