The outgoing mayor from one of North Texas’ most conservative cities joined the anti-taxpayer coalition of local politicians and government lobbyists Wednesday to testify in Austin against property tax reform.
City of Frisco Mayor Maher Maso – who campaigns as a “fiscal conservative” – spoke out strongly against SB2 during public testimony before the House Means and Ways Committee. The hearing was on a watered-down version of SB 2, a popular Senate reform that would allow taxpayers a public vote on excessive city and county tax hikes.
With most of the mayor’s allies already elected to Frisco’s council in the May 6 election, the outgoing Maso was publicly cleared to bash pro-taxpayer reforms without fear of political consequences.
Even though the House committee chaired by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R—Angleton) had weakened or removed many provisions of SB 2 to appease local politicians and their lobbyists, Maso testified in fierce opposition to the bill.
But Maso didn’t stop there. He lashed out at conservative county officials who are standing strong with taxpayers in support of tax reform. Collin County Commissioner Chris Hill, who has a strong reputation as a taxpayer advocate, responded to Maso on Facebook:
Friends, I’m writing you today from Austin, where I’m waiting to testify on your behalf in support of Senate Bill 2 and property tax reform… Remarkably, this morning’s session included testimony from Frisco Mayor Maso, lobbying against property tax reform, against the citizens and taxpayers of Collin County, and advocating for higher property taxes! In his testimony, Mayor Maso actually remarked, ‘My county, Collin County, loves to talk about how they cut the tax rate every year. I wish they would just cut the rate to zero, because they don’t provide any services to the people of Collin County.’
Hill then went on to outline all of the government services the county provides its residents in a separate post.
Perhaps a compelling motivation for Maso’s misleading attacks is the fact the county’s governing record, by contrast, is making Frisco officials look bad.
Collin County has the lowest county property tax rate of all 254 counties in Texas. Unlike Frisco, county officials – led by Judge Keith Self and Commissioners Susan Fletcher and Chris Hill – have repeatedly cut their property tax rate to help offset skyrocketing property appraisals. Collin County taxpayers pay the second highest property tax bills in Texas, followed by those in Travis County.
In 2016, Collin County officials lowered their tax rate down to the “effective” rate, which kept county tax burdens on existing residents in 2017 flat overall.
Most local governments – including Frisco – refuse to follow the county’s lead. The council, with the support of Maso, has raised property tax burdens on existing residents 38 percent over the last five years—the largest property tax hike of any city in North Texas.
In 2016, Frisco officials raised tax burdens 8.6 percent on existing residents, overall. In 2015, the city increased tax burdens by more than 10 percent in a single year. Remember, these figures exclude additional tax revenues that cities collect from growth and new commercial development.
Collin County provides Texas taxpayers a case study for what conservative governance looks like. While the county has aggressively cut rates, stockpiled reserves, and refused to issue excessive debt in a high-growth environment, the City of Frisco has done the exact opposite.
Frisco officials need to learn how to govern responsibly. But their efforts to side with government lobbyists to oppose statewide property tax reform is downright shameful. Remember, lobby associations such as the Texas Municipal League and the Texas Association of Counties are funded by tax dollars, so taxpayer money is literally being spent to fight against the taxpayers.
Frisco is a fantastic community. Their residents deserve better. Frisco deserves politicians who put the interests of taxpayers ahead of local government lobbying associations.