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2018-06-13 / Local

An analysis: Floresville ISD’s ‘penny swap’ tax proposal

County, school, hospital taxes keep going up
By Russell Dickerson
Special to the Wilson County News

The wisdom of Solomon teaches, “The rivers flow to the Sea, but the Sea is never full.” The same can be said for government and taxes. I’ve lived in Texas most my life and I cannot recall a single year in the last four decades where schools — or teachers unions — have ever been satisfied with funding. The same goes with every other entity to whom I must pay annual homage.

Appraised value

Despite being told that the county appraisal district (CAD) is solely responsible for setting the value of my property for tax purposes by pretty much every politician I’ve ever asked, my research has revealed that the state comptroller’s office issues what are essentially sales quotas to the CADs via the Property Value Studies (PVS) which dictate to the CAD what the values should be, or else. If the comptroller’s office dictates to Wilson CAD to appraise the county at $10 billion, but the CAD only appraises it for $5 billion, Austin will penalize the school districts within that CAD funding (and perhaps other state funding the county might receive) and the CAD will be punished, as well.

Despite any factual basis, the appraised value of every mobile home in Wilson County sky-rocketed for 2018. Everyone knows a mobile home does not appreciate in value. Any increase always comes because of the land it may be attached to — and many are not attached to the land they sit on. The NADA figures show from the moment the truck drives off, the value of a mobile home plummets. Surely the comptroller’s office is aware of this simple fact or else they should find new jobs. Yet they proceeded to issue the decree to Wilson CAD via the PVS and the CAD dutifully raised the assessments (or else they and the ISDs get punished).

Am I the only one that can see the rather obvious conflict?

County tax burden

Experts at the commercial site, Tax-rates.org, correlate information about property and income tax all over the country. Businesses use this data as part of their decision on whether to build a factory or warehouse or other expansion in a county. I was able to collect the information for Texas; here is how Wilson County scores out of the 254 counties in Texas:

•31st in median tax bill ($2,048)

•43rd in percent of income of the median tax bill (3.14 percent)

•46th in percent of value of the median tax bill (1.65 percent).

During WCN’s candidate town hall in February, I recall a candidate for county judge proclaim how low the taxes in Wilson County were — compared to whom?

I understand the county commissioners want to raise taxes again. It looks like we’re already paying enough! While perhaps Karnes’ oil wealth is helping them out, Goliad and Atascosa and Gonzales aren’t oil-rich, even though they’re rural counties like us — yet their tax burden is much lower.

School district penny shuffle’

Before us now is the Floresville ISD Tax Ratification Election. To fully understand it, you have to understand that the state Legislature some years ago placed a 13-cent bounty on each and every property taxpayer in Texas. They created a reward scheme whereby any ISD that increases its tax rate by 13 cents gets increased funding from the state. Over the last two years, this same Legislature decreased the funding — and will continue to do so — so that these ISDs would be compelled to collect on that bounty by raising their tax rates. Approximately 400 school districts have taken advantage of this bounty, although Floresville is one of a few that has employed the “penny shuffle.” For the other districts, it was an unvarnished tax-rate increase.

If it passes, the Floresville school board must pass an ordinance every year continuing the penny swap; this one is only for 2018. The current board cannot commit a future board to do so. Otherwise, it becomes an actual tax increase. If it all works out, it can be a big win for the school district, but whether it’s a win for the taxpayer will depend on the board.

Hospital taxes

The hospital district increased the tax this year to just below the rollback limit, and I suspect this will continue. The hospital is a losing proposition that has so many patients paying nothing, or so far below their profitability as in government insurance, that they must charge high prices to those who do pay to subsidize the losses. This is still not enough, so the taxpayer must subsidize them, too. In the end, for those who pay, it is more cost-effective to drive past Connally Memorial to go to City Base or San Antonio’s medical center, thereby increasing the ratio of non/ under-paying patients to paying patients.

Am I the only one who can see this death spiral?

Higher taxes, higher prices

Anyone who’s owned or run a business knows how government loves to tax them, but they don’t pay the tax. If Joe’s Tacos gets his restaurant property tax doubled, or if the city hits him with a $500 “sign fee,” he increases his prices and it’s the consumer who pays the tax — every time. So the homeowner pays his taxes, and he contributes to paying the taxes of every business he occasions in town. The higher the taxes, the higher the prices. Just like the hospital, the consumer starts looking for a new cost-effective vendor. High county taxes are not a recipe for growth!

I have quite a list of entities taxing me, and I’m sure all of them want a pay raise. They raise their rates, the CAD raises the valuation, and the taxpayer gets sandwiched between them. It’s time for the taxpayer to matter.

Why isn’t their budget tied to performance? If the county isn’t growing, then they don’t grow, either. Not growth through artificial CAD value inflation, but real jobs and new businesses. Somehow, they feel entitled to a budget increase, even though they’ve not earned it.

Don’t let yourself become emotionally invested in the plight of the hospital, or the county, or the school. Rest assured, if you can’t pay your taxes, the county will sell your home for the taxes. It’s nothing personal; it’s just business.

And where are Kuempel and Zaffirini?

Russell Dickerson is a resident of Floresville.

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