Taking another look at our ‘boring’ property taxes

one opinion

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With inflation at a 40-year high, and Texas property appraisals expected to increase about 20 percent this year, property taxes have taken on a new urgency. Any hope for taxpayer relief lies with elected officials.

Economist Dr. Adam Perdue explains that if voters are satisfied with last year’s property tax bills, there is no reason for an exorbitant tax increase just because appraisal values have increased. Any increase in property tax appraisals this year could be offset by a comparable cut in the tax rate, meaning that taxes do not have to increase just because values have increased.

But don’t count on it.

When it comes to government taxing and spending, there will be no “ideal situation.” It will probably be a cold day in hell before we see any of our taxing entities reduce their tax rate enough so that our tax bills stay the same.

As I explained in last week’s column, appraisal districts establish property values, but elected officials set the rates that actually determine the amount of taxes owed.

By no means does this mean that appraisal districts can skate when it comes to escalating taxes. Property taxes in Texas are a convoluted mess. Politicians brag that we have no state income tax, and voters generally fall for it. But I’m not so sure, as our state’s property taxes are among the highest in the nation.

One way or another, citizens must pay taxes. The question is how government gets the money it needs to do its job, and for now in Texas, it is largely through property taxes.

Elected boards brag that they did not raise tax rates — a few will even lower rates as a token — but not enough to prevent a tax increase.

They may throw us a bone to keep us from yapping at their heels, but it’s never anything substantial. It’s like the two amendments that voters can approve on the May 7 ballot. One amendment allows an individual over 65/disabled exemption and if this passes, seniors will receive a reduction on school district property taxes.

The second amendment increases the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000.

Voters should approve these two amendments introduced by Sen. Paul Bettencourt. It’s better than nothing, but it is no long-term solution for taxpayers who cannot keep up with inflation. Politicians are just throwing us another bone — but we’ll take it.

In the meantime, taxpayers still have to follow through with protests on their property taxes. The reason is that in doing mass appraisals and setting values on a group of properties, determining the condition of your individual property may be overlooked. It is up to you, the property owner, to show them why their mathematical formula and market data do not apply to your property.

The deadline to file a protest is May 16th due to May 15th being on a Sunday, however, for an informal meeting with an appraiser, no appointment is needed. Call today!

In the meantime, be sure you have applied for exemptions to which you are entitled: for instance, homestead, ag exemption for farm acreage, military, or over-65 exemptions.

It is not fair that we have to jump through these hoops every year, but for now, that is the system we have.

Politicians use the property-tax issue to hold over taxpayers’ heads before every election, bragging that we have no state income tax.

We are playing within the system as it exists. The bottom line is that the system itself needs to be changed — but that’s another story for another day.

That’s my opinion.

What’s yours?

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