"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
AUSTIN - An effort to rein in local property taxes was delayed Monday as city and county officials pressed lawmakers to kill the measure, saying it would keep them from meeting local needs.Read the whole thing here; Empower Texans has more here.
“We see it as a big win because of all the pushback the cities are putting on their senators,” said Shanna Igo of the Texas Muncipal League. “It delays it another week, two weeks, three weeks, which always helps.”
But Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said he asked to postpone the Senate Finance Committee’s consideration of his bill only to get information from the state comptroller’s office. The comptroller initially said its effect on cities and counties couldn’t be determined, which would be a bill-killer, Bettencourt said.
“I just got out of the lieutenant governor’s office … everybody is gung-ho about it,” Bettencourt said of his Senate Bill 182, which would reduce the threshold at which increases in property tax revenue trigger a rollback election.
Igo had predicted a couple of hundred local officials would show up to testify against the measure on Wednesday, when the Finance Committee is taking public testimony. Now that SB182 has been delayed, they will wait for it to be rescheduled.
Jeff Coyle, director of San Antonio’s intergovernmental relations department, said the city’s average increase was 2.61 percent over the last 10 years. But in some of those years, he said, it has been at or nearer the 8 percent limit to meet the needs of a growing population.
If Bettencourt’s bill had been in effect, Coyle said, it would have cost the city $212 million over the past decade. Savings to taxpayers would have been $4.24 a month in 2015, he said.
“At the end of the day, what is that? A cup of coffee at Starbucks that a homeowner would save per month, while at the same time it’s costing the city hundreds of millions of dollars in our inability to provide services,” Coyle said.
The general fund budget supported by property taxes is about $1 billion this year, Coyle said. Two-thirds of the general fund pays for public safety, he said.
“We’re making sure every one of our senators knows how much of a problem this is for us,” he said.
Janice Evans, chief policy officer and director of communications for Houston Mayor Annise Parker, cited a meeting by big-city mayors two weeks ago to discuss a number of issues being considered in Austin that would “remove local control.”
“They believe these are issues that should be addressed at home rather than at the state capital. Houston already has a revenue cap that constrains how much property taxes we can collect each year. This measure was approved by Houston voters. The city had to lower its tax rate last fall in order to comply with the restriction. We anticipate having to do the same this year,” Evans said.