Wondering if your property taxes are going up again soon? Texas Scorecard is. That’s why we contacted county officials to ask what their plans are for next year’s county property tax rate.

Many central Texas homeowners, and others across the state, have watched their city, county, and school district property tax bills skyrocket over the last few years. In Austin, many taxpayers have been forced to move out of the city because of this increasingly unbearable burden.

Why do your property taxes keep going up? The short answer: local government spending.

The indirect cause is the failure of local governments to lower your tax rates. Each local government sets a rate every year at which they will tax your property, and it’s based on a percentage of your property’s value. If the value of the property goes up, local governments must lower their tax rates to ensure they don’t take more money from you.

For example, if your home is worth $100,000 and the government’s tax rate is 10 cents per $100 of valuation, you owe a $100 tax bill. However, if your home value rises to $200,000 and the government’s rate is still 10 cents per $100, you now owe $200. They’ve doubled your tax bill even though the tax rate “remained the same.”

The system can be a bit confusing, and local officials often exploit the confusion.

What most Texans don’t know is local governments, such as the county, are told how much their tax rate should be lowered to offset rising property values. This is called the “effective” tax rate, which simply means the rate at which they’d take the same amount of money from the same group of people as they did last year—if they took say $50 million total from existing residents last year, they’d take $50 million this year. New properties are not included in this amount, which means that even if local governments adopted that “effective” rate, they’d still be collecting more money in total than last year because of the additional properties now paying taxes as well.

Texas Scorecard reached out to Hays, Travis, and Williamson county commissioners to find out if they were basing next year’s budget on the effective rate. We offered to publish a three–sentence statement from each of them, in full and unedited.

Only one commissioner out of twelve replied. None of the three county judges responded.

One of Williamson County’s commissioners, Cynthia Long, gave us her thoughts:

The Williamson County tax rate is almost 3 cents lower today than when I took office. I work hard to conservatively address the budget needs of one of the fastest growing counties in the state, always keeping in mind the effects of rising property values.

The other commissioners chose to not participate in an opportunity to communicate with the public, but you as a taxpayer can still hold them accountable.

Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties have all raised county taxes for several years straight, and if you’re concerned about paying even more next year, contact your local officials. Your county commissioners, city council, and school board all set their own tax rates and contribute to your rising bills.

Tell them to set your taxes at the effective rate. If they don’t reply or refuse to listen, hold them accountable.

It’s your money, after all.

 

 

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.

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