According to one of Dallas’ top city officials, new pro-citizen property tax reforms are actually a “threat.”
At a Texas Senate Committee meeting last week in Austin, the City of Dallas’ Chief Financial Officer, Elizabeth Reich, attacked the idea of taxpayers having a vote on their property tax rates.
“We view this as a threat to critical city services such as public safety,” said Reich about Senate Bill 2, which proposes setting a voter approved tax rate of 2.5 percent. If any local government attempted to raise property taxes over 2.5 percent in a given year, citizens would get to vote to approve the increase. The 2.5 percent increase doesn’t include new money a local government would already collect from new growth.
According to data from the Appraisal Districts of Dallas, Denton, and Collin Counties, the average property tax bill of the City of Dallas has risen 43.7 percent, 39.6 percent, and 17.1 percent over five years for residents in those respective counties.
Reich said SB 2’s passage would have resulted in a reduction of $32 million in city revenues, the equivalent of 358 uniformed officers. Dallas Mayor Pro-Tem Casey Thomas also made the same claim to the committee the same day.
After Reich’s comments, State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R—North Richland Hills) challenged her allegation and defended the voice of the taxpayers. Hancock asked Reich what the total budget of the City of Dallas was, which she replied was $1.37 billion. What followed was a testy exchange as Hancock nailed Reich on the size of $32 million respective to the entire city budget.
“Can you tell me what percent $32 million is of $1.37 billion?” Hancock asked.
“It is about 2 and a half percent.”
“So, $32 million out of a $1.37 billion is a relatively small amount to address. Would you agree?”
“If we look at what was re-appraised…”
“2 percent is a small amount of $1.37 billion, is that correct?”
“When public safety is going up 4 percent a year, it’s tough to live under a cap like that.”
“Right, but your new growth covers that.”
“Our new growth covers the services we need for new residents and population growth, etc. Um, when I look at the revenue growth…”
“My only question is 2 percent in a budget of $1.37 billion relatively small and something that could be dealt with?”
“I think it would be a challenge for us.”
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) also took issue with Reich’s claims.
“You’re talking about a 2 percent reduction of what’s already been a 33 percent increase [in the city portion of property taxes over four years]. That’s the math,” he said, noting the average city portion of the property tax bill in Dallas is $1444.
“This is an extremely high tax rate by any measurement of any city in the state,” Bettencourt added.
Hancock ended the exchange by asking Reich if her worst-case scenario came true and the city needed to raise property taxes above 2.5 percent for public safety services, did she think voters would approve it?
Reich indicated she believed they would.
“Members, I think that’s the point we’re trying to make here,” said Hancock. “The absolute worst-case scenario is what was just brought up to us and in the worst-case scenario they go to the voters, they get approval, and they have the revenue they need to address their needs.”
Property tax reform that gives taxpayers power against their local governments excessively raising taxes isn’t a threat to anything except excessive government spending. Dallas residents can make their voices heard on this issue to the very city council who dispatched Reich to fight against taxpayers’ interests.
Mayor: Michael Rawlings