Discussion of tax rates often revolve around income tax and state sales and use tax, but recent discussion within the state government has focused on property tax rates around Texas. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick spent time as a senator trying to halt property tax increases but was unsuccessful against the strong lobbying efforts of various cities and counties around the state.
However, as lieutenant governor, Patrick seems poised to push for appraisal caps and revenue caps, much to the dismay of communities like Dallas. City officials have suggested the caps would damage the relationship between the state government and various smaller city and county governing bodies.
What’s the Property Tax Argument Over Caps About?
Cities and counties around Texas that don’t want to see caps placed on property taxes have argued that growth is dependent upon increasing property taxes over time. Critics suggest that the way property taxes work allows cities to collect more money each year even though they aren’t officially raising taxes.
How do cities collect more each year? The Dallas News provides a succinct explanation of how property taxes work:
“Property tax bills are based on two factors: the tax rate and the value of the property being taxed. Since property values regularly increase in well-to-do areas, tax revenues go up even if the tax rate stays the same.”
Caps on appraisals, as well as on revenue, have become a few of the most talked-about ways that the state could restrict the growth of revenue from property taxes. For several years, governments around Texas have lobbied hard to ensure that caps wouldn’t be introduced.
Critics have also said that recently introduced bills at the state level have been designed to reduce the amount of control local governments have on collecting taxes and operating without state-level government interference. Tasks like property tax appeals are handled at the local level, as are the rates and appraisals.
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Changes Sought by State Government Members
Members of the state government who support caps have suggested there are two ways that bills could stop property taxes from rising. Under current law, a local election is triggered whenever overall revenue growth exceeds 8%. Those who want to change the law would like to see an election triggered when revenue growth exceeds 4%.
Another way that proponents would like to change the law would involve appraisal caps. Right now, a home cannot see its appraisal value increase more than 10% in one year. A new law would cap that increase at 5%.
Recent Property Tax Bills Introduced at the State Level
Supporters of caps on property taxes have recently sent Senate Bill 1760 through committees and voting in the House and Senate. The bill comes as a response to the growing concern over property tax rates and how many requests for help paying property taxes that government officials have said they’ve received.
The caption text of Senate Bill 1760 states that the bill is:
“Relating to the transparent and equitable application of ad valorem tax procedures.”
A senator from Houston, Sylvia Garcia, criticized the bill for its attempt to take away local government control and “dictate” policy from Austin. In a statement, Garcia said:
“They’ve had a war on local control since the beginning and this is just another thing that they’re taking away from local governments’ ability to handle their own business and dictating that from Austin.”
It’s likely that heated discussions on the topic of property tax relief will continue at the state level, as well as at the local government level and within the homes of property owners around Texas.