At a townhall event Tuesday, the mayor of Colleyville explained his enthusiastic support of the governor’s proposal to give voters a say on tax hikes, helping property taxpayers by promoting greater transparency and accountability.

“I think I’m the only mayor in North Texas who has endorsed Gov. Abbott’s property tax reduction initiative,” Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton said to thunderous applause. “As your [home] value goes up, if [a local government’s property] tax rate stays the same, your [tax bill] goes up.” Local politicians and government lobby groups opposed to Abbott’s plan claim the law would “reduce local control” of local officials. Newton disagreed:

“[T]he definition of local control is when the citizens have the right to make the call.”

Newton added, “If a taxing entity exceeds that 2.5 percent trigger, then you the citizens will automatically get an election to decide if you want to leave it higher than that … or roll it back.” He explained how the 2.5 percent limit excludes all new tax revenue from growth, in addition to all tax revenue used to repay outstanding bond debt.

A minority of cities, including Colleyville, Grapevine, Keller, Lucas, and Murphy—along with Denton and Collin counties—have significantly lowered their tax rates to offset recent appraisal increases, all without cutting city services. Most other taxing entities have not, driving up tax bills paid by homeowners.

Newton explained how tax rate decreases are not necessarily tax cuts and that controls on revenue growth such as the 2.5 percent would still allow local budgets to grow responsibly as new residential and commercial taxpayers are added. Even after the newly elected Colleyville City Council reduced their property tax rate, property tax revenue grew from higher appraisals and new development.

Newton stated that Colleyville’s property tax revenues would have still increased had Abbott’s 2.5 percent plan been enacted six or seven years ago.

Texas Scorecard compiled data from Denton, Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant Appraisal Districts to show just how much property tax bills by cities and school districts have risen in recent years.

The average homeowner in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD—Newton’s home district—has seen their school tax bill jump 40.5 percent in only five years. The city’s tax bill has grown at a much slower rate, due to reforms made during Newton’s tenure, rising only 16 percent over the same time period.

In February, Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Casey Thomas claimed Abbott’s 2.5 percent vote trigger would somehow threaten emergency services. “That’s just a technique to throw out the worst-case conditions to scare you, to convince you [to oppose it],” Newton countered. He cited how opposition to Abbott’s plan is coming primarily from local officials, not citizens.

A recent Rasmussen poll confirms Newton’s claim. More than 66 percent of voters are in favor of Abbott’s 2.5 percent voter trigger, and 46 percent support a vote on any tax increase. More than 80 percent of Texans support a 4 percent limit, or less, which is half the current 8 percent threshold currently in place.

The Texas Legislature is continuing to debate Abbott’s proposal. Texas House Bill 2 has again been delayed for a vote, but the Texas Senate recently passed their version, Senate Bill 2.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.

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