Austin – The Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform heard testimony regarding three interim charges regarding enhancing voter engagement in the property tax process, examining available data, and evaluating the process of Appraisal Review Board operations. To open the hearing Chairman Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) stated: “Property tax relief is urgent and a necessity for all Texas taxpayers. This all boils down to a simple equation of Aggie math: As property values go up property tax rates must come down.”
The committee heard several best practice ideas from around the state. These include “virtual town halls” – per Chairman Bettencourt – from City of Arlington, Councilwoman Victoria Farrar-Meyers, to engage their residents in the budgeting and property tax rate setting process. Additionally, Travis County’s Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler, as well as the head of TTARA, Dale Craymer, highlighted a new taxpayer friendly portal (www.TravisTaxes.com) which shows taxpayers exactly how much their tax bills are going up was well received by the committee as a best practice that could be adopted in the rest of the state.
However, not all testimony highlighted positive best practices. Noting the growth in the overall property tax burden, Senator Van Taylor (R-Plano) stated:“I am shocked to find out total Texas property tax burden went from $52 billion to $60 billion in two years. This has to stop.” In one notable moment a representative of the City of College Station testified that they had proposed a property tax rate increase this year to “offset” a new 5% homestead exemption that was being offered. In reaction to this Chairman Bettencourt proclaimed: “Don’t testify that the City has to raise the property tax rates to ‘offset’ a 5% homestead exemption. I am aghast at this! The City of College Station has had an increase of 45.5% more property tax revenue in just four years. That is the highest of any large city that the committee is aware of. Taxpayers deserve the whole truth that using their own published financial reports the city has drastically increased revenues.”
Senator Kelly Hancock (R – North Richland Hills) added: “My constituents in an overwhelming number tell me – do something about this. I get that there are some people doing things right, but unfortunately not everyone is and that is why we are looking at legislation this session.”
Chairman Bettencourt noted that property tax reform has been designated preliminarily as SB2, by Lt. Governor Patrick in the upcoming 86th Legislative Session, with school safety legislation designated as SB1.