A delegation of five Bastrop County residents ventured to the Texas State Capitol on Feb. 6 to testify at the Senate Committee on Property Tax hearing on Senate Bill 2, which would require voters to approve property tax increases that lead to collections that are more than 2.5 percent higher than the previous year. Gov. Greg Abbott has designated property tax reform an emergency issue for the 86th Legislative Session. I and several conservative Bastrop County women reported to the committee to speak in favor of property tax reform. Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape signed up against property tax reform. view article arw

From the campaign trail to election night victory speeches to promises in the halls of the Texas Capitol, property taxes are the top priority for lawmakers. Depending on which metric you use, the state generally ranks in the top 5 nationally for having the highest property taxes. Lawmakers say they have to do something to lower those bills. But what is that something? view article arw

Property taxes, no one likes to see them rise. That couldn't be more true in Midland and Odessa. But with new property tax reform in the form of a rate hike cap passing the Texas Senate Property Tax Committee, many lawmakers are hopeful for change. "It ensures that we are going to have control and taxpayers are going to have control," says Texas Representative Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. "It's going to empower property owners to say no to significant increases in their property taxes." view article arw

On January 31, a collective sigh of relief could be heard from the Bastrop Central Appraisal District. The District passed the Property Value Study in all schools in Bastrop County.  One of the purposes of the study is to measure the performance of the appraisal district.   This is done by analyzing the appraised value to the market sales data. The primary purpose of the study is to help ensure equitable distribution of state funding for public education. Two years ago, Bastrop ISD and Smithville ISD were shown to be out of compliance. Smithville ISD actually lost state education funds because of the failure. By passing the Property Value Study for 2018, all schools will receive local value as determined by the Appraisal District. view article arw

While property taxes continue to climb for most homeowners in Texas, one influential Texan who has made cutting them the hallmark of his career has seen his own bill drop.  Since they purchased it in April 2017, the 4,300 square-foot house Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his wife own on Lake Conroe in Montgomery County has dropped in market value from nearly $968,000 to $921,000 in 2018. The result is that the tax bill on the Benthaven Isle home has decreased from $19,429 to $16,736 — a 14-percent drop.  Patrick, who paid $1 million for the house, says the property appraisal was much too high the year before he purchased it, and the declining values reflect the reality of the market.  view article arw

Property tax changes on the horizon

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The Texas Legislature in back in session in Austin. Always an eventful time here in the State of Texas. For this session, Gov. Greg Abbott has named several emergency items. Among these, he has specifically called attention to school finance reform and property tax relief. Gov. Abbott, in his inaugural address, stated that this session, lawmakers will finally unravel the policy issues of school finance and property tax reform. Last week, the governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen proposed identical property tax reform bills that they said will help alleviate the problem of rising property taxes. view article arw

Property Value Study

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The Comptroller's office has released the preliminary results of the 2018 property value study, which will determine the property values to be used in state aid and recapture calculations for the 2019-2020 school year.  The comptroller's office is tasked with conducting this study to ensure equal and uniform appraisals across the state.  If they determine that local appraised values are invalid and too low, they will allow local values to continue to be used for two years, which gives the appraisal district time to improve appraisal practices and / or to appeal the comptroller's determination (this is called the grace period).  After that time, the state-determined value will be substituted for the local value for the purpose of determining state aid and recapture costs if the local appraised value is still found to be too low. Under the state funding formulas, using a higher property value will reduce state aid for those districts with wealth low enough to receive state aid and increase recapture for property wealth districts.   view article arw

Prairiland ISD might be looking at a financial windfall as it works toward tax limitation agreements with solar energy farms looking to set up shop in the district, though critics of such agreements say they’re corporate welfare that ultimately hurt the state. GSE Twelve LLC’s application for a value limitation for its Impact Solar Farm, a $240 million facility on 1,867 acres in southeastern Lamar County near Cunningham, on the maintenance and operations side of Prairiland ISD’s tax levy received Texas Comptroller’s Office approval in January. The company expects to present that agreement to the Prairiland ISD Board of Trustees later this month. view article arw

In the latest episode of our podcast about the 86th Legislature, Evan Smith talks with state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, the chairman of the Senate Property Tax Committee, about off-the-charts appraisals and off-the-leash local officials — and whether his reform plan has the votes to pass. In the latest episode of our podcast about the 86th Legislature, Evan Smith talks with state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, the chairman of the Senate Property Tax Committee, about off-the-charts appraisals and off-the-leash local officials — and whether his reform plan has the votes to pass. view article arw

We all remember last legislative session for its nastiness over "social issues," such as unleashing the Toilet Police on schoolkids or calling ICE on fellow lawmakers. But what really burned everyone's toast was the fight over just how much tax evasion to offer to Texas property owners. The dueling over the proper level of a local tax revenue cap – 2.5% growth year-over-year (Gov. Greg Abbott), or 4% (the Senate), or 6% (the House) – is what, speaking of burnt toast, busted up the weekly breakfast meeting between Abbott, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, and then-House Speaker Joe Straus. In the end no attempt to "relieve" or "reform" the state's unbalanced tax system proved successful. view article arw

A bill to cap property tax revenue for school districts and local governments is getting its first hearing today at the Texas Capitol in a Senate committee made up of members who are mostly proponents of the bill.  Senate Bill 2, authored by Houston Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt, would cap property tax growth for the local taxing entities at 2.5 percent per year. For local governments, excluding schools, the current growth cap is 8 percent. Under the bill, local governments could exceed the revenue cap if they allowed voters to weigh in. view article arw

State officials are congratulating themselves for proposing limits on local property tax increases, but Texans should not be misled. This is not tax reform, because state officials don’t control local tax rates to begin with. It’s an attempt to look like they are doing something at the state level to keep tax bills low among local governments. view article arw

It has been a year since I took issue with some leaders in our state who were blaming out-of-control property taxes on local governments. With the new legislature in session, public education and school finance have emerged as top priorities. And like any high-profile issue, there will be a lot of posturing, sound bites, and finger-pointing. view article arw

After promising meaningful property tax reform throughout the first weeks of the session, state leadership unveiled a plan to slow the growth of property taxes Thursday.  “People desperately need property tax reform, our businesses need property tax reform, and we have set out, on this date, early in session…with a major piece of legislation,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.  “We are setting the tone for the rest of the session on this issue.” He was joined by Governor Greg Abbott, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, as well as two key lawmakers, Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt and Lubbock Representative Dustin Burrows, who will carry the bills in their respective chambers.  Both bills, designated SB 2 and HB 2, are identical and would put a 2.5 percent cap on annual property tax growth absent voter approval. view article arw

Public education advocates are speaking out against a proposed cap on property tax increases. Wednesday a public hearing on SB 2 is expected to draw several school district leaders to the Texas State Capitol. People opposing the bill say it would cripple the public education system. The legislation would mainly impact larger cities and school districts collecting more than $15 milling in property and sales tax every year. The bill would cap the property tax rate at 2.5 percent. A higher rate would require voter approval in an election. Currently, taxing entities can raise the tax rate to 8 percent without needing an election. The bill's authors say people being taxed out of their homes are ready for property tax relief like SB 2. view article arw

The Texas Constitution is an ungainly 26,000 words full of all manner of minutiae. But its most eloquent passage is arguably this: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott will take center stage at the Texas Capitol tomorrow as he delivers his State of the State Address. Here’s what to expect: APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: The House Appropriations Committee will meet at 7:30 a.m. to hear public testimony about health care in Texas prisons, border security, the state driver’s license program, Abbott’s school safety plan and the state child support enforcement system. View the agenda here and watch the stream here. view article arw

Flanked by the state's top legislative leaders, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that both chambers of the Texas Legislature will push to curb property tax growth by limiting how much money local governments collect without voter approval.  Fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, as well as the heads of both chambers' tax-writing committees, joined Abbott in making the announcement. Their news conference followed the filing of identical bills in both chambers, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2. view article arw

The city of Dallas’ budget would have been $32 million smaller this year –– if the governor’s new plan to cap local spending for cities, counties and special taxing districts had been in place.  That’s a hole the size of the library system, which serves 29 locations, or the size of the entire maintenance budget for parks, which serves 388 parks, playgrounds and fields. If the cap had been in place, Dallas wouldn’t have funded the $11,000 pay bump for starting police and fire-rescue workers it approved last year, which cost an extra $15 million, Mayor Mike Rawlings said. And the city wouldn’t be able to pay for the 100 new police recruits it’s seeking, with a price tag of $8.9 million. view article arw

The top three power-brokers at the Capitol — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton — announced Thursday they had agreed on legislation that would place strict limits on how much school districts, cities and counties can raise taxes. Identical bills filed Thursday in the Texas House and Senate would require voters to approve property tax increases that lead to collections that are more than 2.5 percent higher than the previous year. Local leaders and Democrats said the plan could cripple local government services and leave schools with fewer dollars. They vowed to fight the cap, setting up what likely will be the biggest battle of the 140-day legislative session that began last month. view article arw

Texas school board members want to lower property taxes; they’ve wanted to lower taxes for years.  Unfortunately, Texas legislators have not found a sustainable revenue source outside of property taxes to support the 5.4 million students in Texas public schools. The state has left it to school districts to raise necessary funds locally, and now the state is relying on local property taxes to pay for more than 60 percent of public school funding.  We’ve seen this story before—back in 2005 when the Legislature arbitrarily reduced and capped school property tax rates but was unable to maintain their commitment to our students in 2011 leading to a massive $5.4 billion cut to public schools. view article arw

On Jan. 21, Bridge City ISD school board accepted a Chapter 313 tax break application from Chevron Phillips Chemical. The same kind of application was accepted by West Orange-Cove CISD on Jan. 14. The new facility would be on property across the street from Chevron Phillips Chemical's existing facility in Orange County, according to an announcement at the Jan. 21 meeting.  view article arw

Not 24 hours after the Louise ISD board of trustees voted not to enter into a Chapter 313 agreement with a proposed solar farm, Seventus, LLC withdrew its 313 application with El Campo ISD for a wind farm. With a show of hands for or against, a motion to amend the local policy failed when Louise trustees voted 3-3 not to offer property tax value limitation agreements to incoming industry or corporations including one with Hecate Energy, LLC at its Monday meeting. view article arw

In an effort to stay connected with the community and plan the school district’s next steps, Klein ISD has announced the formation of a new coalition. The Klein Leadership Coalition will consist of influencers in and around Klein ISD, including staff, faculty and community members. According to a presentation given during the January meeting, the Klein Leadership Coalition will exchange information, create awareness of district operations and assist the district with future plans. view article arw

Critics of Texas' Republican leadership are warning homeowners not to buy into their pitch of property tax relief this legislative session. Their skepticism dates back to the 2006 gubernatorial race between Rick Perry and challenger Carole Keeton Strayhorn. “The average homeowner will receive a $2,000 tax cut,” Perry pledged. view article arw

There’s been a lot of talk in the early days of the 2019 session of the Legislature about reducing property taxes, but conservative groups say the only real solution is a hard cap on how much all taxing districts can increase taxes without the approval of the taxpayers, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports. “What I would like to see happen to see the Legislature reduce the ‘rollback’ tax rate from its current 8% level to something much more reasonable, like 2 1/2%, said James Quintero, an analyst with the conservative leading Texas Public Policy Foundation. view article arw

The Texas oil and natural gas industry paid $2.0 billion in royalties to the State of Texas in fiscal year 2018, up 18 percent over the previous year.  The majority of these royalties are used to capitalize the Permanent School Fund (PSF), which benefits the public schools of Texas, and the Permanent University Fund (PUF), which benefits public higher education in Texas. Oil and natural gas royalties constitute the only substantive new-money capital deposited annually to the PSF and PUF, according to the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA).  In addition to state royalties, the oil and natural gas industry pays billions of dollars in state and local taxes, figures that have also increased substantially.  TXOGA will make its annual Economic Impact Announcement in February, detailing total state and local taxes and state royalties paid in fiscal year 2018. In fiscal year 2017, that number was $11 billion. view article arw

At Edith’s Place, a nine-table restaurant on Procter Street in this industrial city, a mural painted over pale dandelion-yellow walls shows how things used to be. People gather on the sidewalk. Cars fill parking spaces along the street. Bold signs advertise local businesses. Outside, reality paints a different picture. There are few open stores and little traffic. The downtown streets of the Gulf Coast city feel empty. Port Arthur may be surrounded by prosperous oil refineries, but the city itself faces challenges. The refineries employ fewer workers than they once did, and those they do hire come from all over. The city’s unemployment rate stood near 8 percent in November, more than twice that of the state, and the median household income is $33,000 a year, well below the average for Texas. view article arw

Restrain, reform, rein in, restrict and limit are not synonyms for the word Texas property taxpayers crave: cut. This is an alert: Your property taxes will not be falling, in spite of all the talk about easing property taxes that is emanating from the Texas Capitol. State lawmakers can’t make property tax rates come down. They’ve tried. It didn’t make rates come down. And even trying is expensive: It would cost the state just under $2.5 billion to replace a dime’s worth of local school property taxes; that is, to lower the property tax rate by ten cents. On a $250,000 home, that would amount to overall savings of about $20 per month in property taxes. view article arw

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick made it clear during their inauguration ceremony this week: state leaders intend to make changes to the property tax systems in Texas. "We already knew in our heart and our soul what people wanted us to do, but we heard it loudly and clearly, and that was reform property taxes so they could live in their homes and own their own businesses," Patrick said Tuesday during his inaugural address after being sworn in for his second term. "This session, we must finally rein in skyrocketing property taxes in Texas," Abbott said during his speech on a chilly January morning. view article arw

 A tax attorney defended her company’s track record of collecting unpaid taxes to White Oak trustees Monday, touting her statewide firm as more aggressive and effective at delivering revenue for the Roughnecks. “We’re not the largest firm that does this, but bigger doesn’t always mean better,” Liz Bonn, of the firm McCreary Veselka Bragg & Allen, told the school board near the end of a presentation in which she mentioned “our competitor” several times but never by name. view article arw

As he prepares to be sworn in for a second term Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott is focused intently on two big goals — restraining property tax increases and improving the way Texas funds its public schools. Abbott acknowledges that he and other newly re-elected Republicans who control the Texas Capitol will be trying to thread a political needle this session: Yes, the state needs to ramp up its financial contributions to schools to ease upward pressure on Texas homeowners' and businesses' property-tax bills, they concede. view article arw

Frisco ISD voters approved a tax ratification election and a $691 million bond in November. The bond will be used to pay for a number of projects, including new schools, maintenance projects and facility expansions. The election also increased the property tax rate for maintenance and operations by $0.13 per $100 valuation. The Frisco ISD board of trustees then decreased the interest and sinking tax rate by $0.15. This tax swap resulted in a combined tax rate of $1.44 per $100 valuation, $0.02 lower than the 2017-18 tax rate. The boost to maintenance and operations is expected to increase teacher salaries and reduce class sizes, among other things. view article arw

AUSTIN — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is predicting 8 percent growth in the state’s tax collections over the next two years, giving hope to lawmakers eager to tackle high-cost plans to reform school finance and offer property tax relief. But Hegar called the forecast “cloudy” and warned that uncertainty in trade policy and rising interest rates could affect state revenues. view article arw

At a time when legislators are vowing to spend more money on public schools and slow the growth of Texans’ property tax bills, the state should have enough money at its disposal to do just that. That is, if its newest predictions hold true. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Monday offered a cautiously optimistic outlook for the Texas economy, telling lawmakers they will have about 8.1 percent more state funds available to budget for public programs — primarily schools, highways and health care — in 2020 and 2021. Hegar projected there would be about $119.1 billion in state funds available for the next two-year budget, up from $110.2 in the last two-year budget. view article arw