Dallas County citizens have reason to be concerned after their elected officials made troubling comments about property tax reform legislation.

At a Texas Senate Committee meeting, Charles Reed—the Assistant Administrator of Government Affairs for the Dallas County Commissioners Court—argued against Senate Bill 2, a reform designed to protect taxpayers from skyrocketing tax burdens. The legislation would institute an automatic vote on property tax hikes that increase revenue more than 2.5 percent.  Reed claimed the state’s crisis of rising property taxes was not local officials’ fault, placing the blame rather on what he called “unfunded mandates” from the state legislature. He said the mandates amount to $145 million that Dallas has had to finance in the last 20 years.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), who chairs the committee, asked Reed to provide documentation proving that claim. He didn’t have any with him but said he had provided it to the Texas Legislature in previous sessions. Bettencourt asked for it to be provided again.

Reed also blamed a lack of funding for education as a cause for taxpayers struggles, which Bettencourt said would be addressed this session.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) repeatedly grilled Reed on whether or not “skyrocketing” property taxes was a concern for citizens. A brief back and forth ensued between Hancock and Reed, and at one point Reed said citizens kept asking Dallas County for services as a reason against reducing property taxes. Hancock continued to press Reed on the question until finally he conceded Hancock’s point. “Any raise in any tax is a concern for any citizen.”

Reed also argued that, because Dallas County soon will have no debt, an exemption should be explored for governing entities that have low debt or no debt.

“Have you all cut the tax rate?” Bettencourt asked. “No,” was Reed’s reply. Bettencourt pointed out that as values rise, if the tax rate isn’t cut appropriately, residents necessarily see a rise in the taxes they pay.

“It’s a tough subject when the average Dallas homeowner pays 33.6 percent more in property taxes in four years,” Bettencourt said.

Dallas County Judge: Clay Jenkins
Email: Lauren.mish@dallascounty.org (Chief of Staff)
Phone: 214-653-6591

Robert Montoya

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