On Friday, shortly before the Harris County Commissioners Court was set to vote on the proposed 2016 tax rate, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) delivered an open letter encouraging the commissioners to reduce the burden on county taxpayers.
Houston’s population growth has mostly remained flat in recent years, but Harris County has seen a large amount of new residents. Even with more taxpayers being added to the rolls, Commissioners haven’t reduced taxes since a fraction-of-a-cent reduction in 2005.
Former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Dom Sumners acknowledged that due to the increase in values in the last five years the tax base has gone up by 40% saying, “The pie has grown significantly, but for several years now the court has chosen not to share any of that pie with the taxpayers.”
In his letter, Sen. Bettencourt recalls Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s appeal to the Harris County delegation during the 84th legislative session in which Emmett stated his opposition to revenue caps.
“In your letter, attached, you assert that applying a revenue cap to Harris County would ‘…prove disastrous to the area’s economic growth and quality of life.’ What is really disastrous for hardworking taxpayers is seeing their property tax bills increase yearly by double digit percentages.”
Although the Commissioners haven’t increased rates, Harris County property owners have still seen significant increases in their property tax bills due to rising appraisals. Bettencourt says in his letter that the average homeowner has seen their appraisal up by about 25% — but some have seen even higher appraisal increases.
The letter goes on to say that the taxable value of Harris County property has increased by 40% in just five years, which is about $700 million more during that time span.
Bettencourt closes by saying:
“For each penny of tax rate deduction, county taxpayers will save approximately 39 million dollars on their property tax bill, that is significant tax relief. Based upon these facts, I hope you and your colleagues on Commissioners’ Court will grant much needed property tax relief to all the taxpayers of Harris County.”
Unfortunately, the court ignored the region’s sluggish economy and decided against property tax relief for Harris County taxpayers by voting to maintain the same tax rate. Keep that in mind as you enter the ballot box and vote on the county’s bond propositions.