Thursday, January 7, 2016

Breaking Point: Texas' PROPERTY TAX Problem and Finding a FIX

Austin City Councilmember Ellen Troxclair

"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."
Nehemiah 5:15

TPPF Policy Orientation: What the heck are we going to do about property taxes?!?

[Author's Note: The fact that Ellen Troxclair has accomplished more on this topic in one year despite being outvoted most of the time 9-2 than Dennis Bonnen has in 20 years despite a Republican supermajority speaks volumes.]

Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Brazoria County/Chairman Texas House Ways and Means Committee):
  • #TXLEGE has cut property taxes four times while he's been in office and no one's ever felt a thing.
  • Texas has sixth highest residential property taxes in the nation.
    • No state income tax offsets this somewhat.
  • To return property taxes to 1992 levels, you'd have to cut them by 27%.
  • Something about "personal income."
  • Passed the buck to local officials.
Ellen Troxclair (if you don't know who she is, you haven't been paying attention):
  • Median property tax bill in Austin is $6k annually.
  • Local Solutions:
    • Taxpayer impact statement
    • Expanding homestead exemption (unfortunately, each local entity has to adopt it separately).
    • Taxpayer refund -- City set aside a small amount of money to send back to taxpayers.
      • Even then it only passed 6-5.
  • Need taxpayer impact statements across all taxing entities.
  • Longer Term Solutions:
    • Spending caps
    • Collaboration Amongst Taxing Entities.
    • Alternative Funding Sources -- eg. Using Hotel Occupancy taxes to cover SxSW related expenditures.
    • General Fund Transfers -- Austin Energy and Austin Water subsidizing the city general fund from your utility bills.
    • Limit Spending.
    • Sunset Process for City Programs/Departments.
    • Ending automatic wage increases.
    • Fixing Pensions.
Sheryl Johnson (Tax Asssessor/Collector Galveston County):
  • She's a former real-estate appraiser.
  • "I was hell bent on representing property owners and that's what I've done ever since.
  • "I cut my political teeth on this system."
  • Current property tax system is antithetical to personal liberty.
  • Property tax system today bears no relationship to people's ability to pay.
Dick Levine (Travis County Appraisal District):
  • 106,000 property tax assessment challenges in Travis County last year.
  • School districts account for half of property tax bill.
  • Give cities and counties the opportunity to choose between percentage or flat dollar homestead exemption.
    • Todd Hunter killed proposed constitutional amendment to do so in calendars last session.
Dennis Bonnen dodges question about Appraisal Caps:

  • What Bonnen fails to mention is that last session Rep Gary Elkins filed HB 365 to fix the appraisal system and that it died in Bonnen's Ways and Means committee without a hearing.

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