Property taxes are back in the news

The Dallas Morning News reported today that the Dallas City Council is struggling to reduce the city’s budget to avoid a property tax increase. As the economy weakens and sales tax revenues decline, property taxes become the prime source for revenue increases for local governments. In the continuing controversy over the new Margin Tax, people want to know: What happened to my property tax cut? Evidently in many jurisdictions, increased appraisal values offset the lower school property tax rate. And some school districts asked and got permission from voters to raise rates higher than the maximum amount prescribed by the legislature.

So: what to do? Appoint a committee. (Didn’t Gov. Perry try that before the last session?) In the Senate a subcommittee chaired by CPA Senator Tommy Williams is taking up the cause. In the House, Speaker Tom Craddick has appointed a select committee to study the issue also chaired by a CPA, Rep. John Otto.

Williams’s subcommittee met June 16, and the emphasis seemed to be more on the appraisal process than the traditional cries for appraisal caps. Otto’s committee met the following day where concerns about appraisal creep and process were voiced.

A few days earlier, former State Comptroller John Sharp spoke in Corpus Christi and opined that we needed to turn back the clock to reinstate a law passed while he was a state legislator. According to Sharp, that law provided that “if the appraisal goes up, the tax rate has to go down.” Then, “City Council and school board members should make their case to voters for increasing tax rates and not rely on stealth tax increases by keeping rates the same when appraisals are going up.” Appraisal caps by any other name …

If you’d like to give your fellow CPAs Sen. Williams and Rep. Otto the benefit of your property tax experience or suggestions, fax or email them your views:

Sen. Tommy Williams
Fax (512) 463-6373
Email tommy.williams@senate.state.tx.us

Rep. John Otto
Fax (512) 463-0315
Email john.otto@house.state.tx.us

Read more about Otto’s first committee hearings in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal and the El Paso Times.

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