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City of Plano property taxes are increasing at an unsustainable rate. In the last five years, according to the city’s own data, the average Plano homeowner has seen their city tax bill rise 36 percent, while inflation has increased less than 8 percent. This is a direct result of city officials refusing to reduce their tax rate enough to offset rising property values.

If over the last ten years your $250,000 home increased in value to $400,000, you’ve experienced a 60 percent appraisal increase. If over that time, the city’s tax rate stayed the same, your city tax bill would go up 60 percent.

Even if the city reduced its tax rate two cents per $100 dollar valuation over that time, which is about 4 percent, then your city tax bill would still increase 53 percent.

The net tax increase is less than before, but is still unsustainable.

The solution is for the Plano City Council to adopt the “Effective Tax Rate” in 2018, which is the rate at which the average homeowner would pay the same amount of city tax this year as the previous year. Even with a lower rate, the city would still collect additional tax revenue from growth, but the tax hikes on existing homeowners would stop. This seems quite reasonable after a decade of annual city tax increases.

But it wont happen unless Plano residents contact city officials and ask for a lower tax rate.

City staff has proposed yet another 4 percent tax increase again in 2018. And they’re using confusion to try and convince residents they aren’t raising taxes. They say they are “not raising the tax rate,” implying they aren’t forcing taxpayers to pay more. But the truth is, they are.

The city will predict dire consequences if they’re not allowed to continue on their tax-hiking path. And they’ll tell residents to blame the school district for higher property taxes. But city officials should focus on the city taxes that they control.

A committee of concerned citizens has been studying past city budgets for several months, and is now studying the proposed 2018-2019 budget. What did we find? All that’s required to adopt the Effective Tax Rate, and reduce the city’s property tax rate by roughly 3 cents, is for the city to grow its budget at a slower rate than before.

Staff, and even some city officials, will claim that reducing the tax rate will “hurt public safety.” They’ll claim they “won’t have enough police and fire officers.” It’s simply not true. Again, no spending cuts are required to lower the property tax rate. If the city simply increased spending at a slower rate, they could easily lower the tax rate.

Our committee will release more specifics very soon. But simply put, there are many areas in the budget outside of public safety that, year after year, are budgeted at levels millions of dollars more each year than what’s actually spent. In other words, city staff will ask for millions more in each department – including “General Administration” and “Non-Departmental” – than what they actually need.

Yet, year after year, these line items are increased over their previous year’s budget, rather than over the previous year’s actual expenditures. Eliminating this shell game alone will save tens of millions of dollars and allow the city to adopt the Effective Tax Rate.

We’ve even found “ghost employees,” which are budget requests for new staff that, year after year, never actually get hired. It’s another example of budget padding. Again, no spending cuts in any category of the budget are required to lower the tax rate. Because even at a lower tax rate, total tax revenue – and spending – will still increase.

We love Plano. Compared to our neighboring cities, our city is excelling. But Plano was a great city five years before council raised the average tax bill 36 percent. We don’t need massive tax hikes to remain one of the most attractive communities in Texas. In fact, higher taxes are making us less attractive, and are unnecessarily punishing long-time residents and businesses.

We can do better. We must respect Plano taxpayers.

Our citizen committee will work with any council member with an interest in our findings and is willing to consider reasonable ideas to stop unsustainable spending and property tax hikes by the City of Plano.

For more information about our committee’s findings on the city’s budget and taxes, Plano residents may contact me at (214) 707-8899. For more information about the Plano Citizens Coalition, visit our website at https://planocitizenscoalition.org/.

This is an outside commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected]

 

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