Houston, TX – Despite multiple statements to the contrary, Mayor Turner attempted to go back on his public promise not to break the voter imposed revenue cap by triggering a disaster provision that allows him to ask for additional revenue. Mayor Turner’s proposal was defeated at Houston City Council by a 2-15 vote margin.
“In addition to refusing to ask for disaster reappraisal to provide flooded out taxpayers property tax relief, Mayor Turner today attempted to break his promise not to not trigger the property tax ordinance emergency exemption and go above the property tax rate cap, further taxing hard pressed business and homeowners,” said Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston). “I was at the joint press conference with Governor Abbott and Mayor Turner, as well as other City Council Members, and we all heard the Mayor make this promise in person after he received a $50 million check from the State of Texas. I want to thank the 15 members of Houston City Council that knew this was bad public policy. I must say that this puts the question of the credibility of the Mayor, on property tax issues, in the forefront of the public’s mind.”
Mayor Turner initially proposed a roughly 15% property tax increase on Houston taxpayers, which he then revised down after opposition from Senator Bettencourt and other taxpayers. He did withdraw the entire request after receiving $50 million from Governor Abbott to aid in Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. At the joint press conference the Mayor stated that this action meant there was no longer any need to increase property taxes additionally on Houstonians. This was reiterated in a September 29th Facebook post in which the Mayor stated “…Therefore there’s no longer a need for the emergency tax increase and the Mayor has taken it off the table!”
“It is past time to recognize the obvious, we shouldn’t be kicking taxpayers while they are down,” summarized Senator Bettencourt. “Rather than doubling down on efforts to pass property tax rate increases, taxing entities should be enacting disaster reappraisal to give flooded out homeowners a break. I want to thank Controller Brown for sitting in front of Council today, like I did at the tax rate hearing.”
The Mayor’s property tax increase proposal comes just days before voters head to the polls to vote on roughly $1,500,000,000 in proposed bonds in the City of Houston. Many City Council members expressed frustration about Mayor Turner’s property tax rate increase proposal, citing backlash from hard pressed homeowners who are already being asked to pay more on homes that are flooded and worth much less than they were pre Harvey. The City of Houston has yet to ask for disaster reappraisal. Other taxing entities, such as Katy ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, et al, have triggered disaster reappraisal.
“Despite discussion today that there is no property tax increase at all, the average home will see a 5.5% property tax bill increase in the City of Houston unless disaster reappraisal is triggered,” concluded Senator Bettencourt.