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FAMILIES ARE CUTTING THEIR BUDGETS, GOVERNMENT MUST CUT YOUR PROPERTY TAXES

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Mayes Middleton State Representative

These are incredibly trying times for our community, state, and nation.  Millions of Texans are out work, and struggling with how to provide for their families due to government-ordered shutdowns.  It is especially wrong to increase property tax bills at a time like this. The reality is that taxpayers simply cannot afford to pay the same amount of taxes as they did last year.

Thankfully, Texas cannot print money, so the best way to help people recover is to let them keep more of their own money in their own pocket.

Unfortunately, many of us were hit with massive valuation increases this year, but that is only part of the picture.  What you owe in property taxes does not go up or down until the tax rate is adopted by each property taxing entity later this Summer.  This means that, as valuations rise, tax rates should fall, which is the mechanism the legislature put in place last year by limiting property tax revenue growth (the combinations of valuation increases and/or tax rate increases) to 3.5%.  However, in a year of extreme economic decline, and the fact that we all know our properties are not worth today what they were when valued at 1/1/2020, each taxing entity must adopt a rate below the “no-new-revenue” rate.  The “no-new-revenue” rate is the tax rate which takes into account valuation increases and requires a tax rate cut when valuations rise, so that each taxing entity generates the same amount of taxes as the previous year from existing properties.

To go a step further, I strongly believe though that cutting the tax rate below the no-revenue-rate to match the percentage decline in our local economy is needed.  Adopting the no-new-revenue rate wipes out the overall increase in values in existing properties for a property taxing entity, however we must take into account the decline in the economy and hardship that paying the same size tax bill as last year will bring to working Texas families.

This does not mean we don’t need substantial reforms to our property valuation system. The Comptroller requires Central Appraisal Districts (CADs) to do property valuation studies and penalizes them if they do not comply.  This year in particular, I also have serious concerns about the valuation protest process itself and our required taxpayer rights of due process to fight valuation increases.  That is why I asked for an Attorney General Opinion about carrying over 2019 values because of potential compromises to our in-person right to protest (i.e. many do not have internet access so it’s not fair to require property owners to protest online).  The Attorney General did not mandate carrying over 2019 values, however, he did say that CADs are still required to protect in-person protest rights and that CADs must also still provide the required direct notices to taxpayers during this crisis. As such, protests need to be substantially completed by July 20th for the Central Appraisal District to be able to certify and use 2020 values.  Using 2019 values is not totally off of the table though. An arcane section of the Texas Tax Code allows property taxing entities (like cities, counties, school districts, etc) to vote to re-appraise property as of a date certain.  In other words, taxing entries could vote to re-appraise properties as of 1/1/2019 under the Tax Code.

To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s valuations or the tax rates used to lower our property tax bills.  They must be lowered—it is the right thing to do in these difficult times.

There are two very important actions you can take to help lower your tax bill. 

First, protest your valuation increase with your County Central Appraisal District.  Normally, you have until May 15, but this has been extended due to notices being mailed out late.  The deadline for Galveston County is May 22nd and 30 days from when your notice was mailed for Chambers County.

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