The Chronicle story "Homeowners still waiting for tax relief from Perry" reports most of the $2,000 promised property tax relief is evaporating due to appraisal increases, and in some school districts, rate increases. But the obstacle last session to more relief was the Legislature, not Perry.

Both TFR and Governor Perry not only pushed for appraisal reform, but also allocating the surplus for the 2008-09 biennium to property tax relief. Too bad the Legislature did neither. Much of the surplus was spent or put in the rainy day fund, which the Legislature may later spend on more government programs.

In fact, simply by limiting state government growth to population plus inflation, which again the Governor supports but the Legislature has not acted on, we can gradually eliminate the school maintenance and operations tax over the next 15 years while maintaining sufficient school funding.

For now, the Houston Chronicle notes the average homeowner in Houstin ISD is saving $310, a far cry from the Holy Grail of $2,000. The Chronicle reports that a family with an $800,000 home in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD will save over 2,000 per year, but it should be noted that those with such expensive homes paid far more in property taxes to begin with so the savings are simply proportional.

Many families with large homes have their kids in private school so in fact they are not directly receiving any benefit for their large share of school district taxes. There is certainly no reason to begrudge those pulling the biggest property tax load.

Clearly, the next Legislature must address revenue caps to create an automatic refund when appraisals go up more than inflation and returning the leftover suprlus for 2008-09 and the new 2010-11 surplus in property tax cuts that can’t be taken away by local governments and school districts.

Rep. Ken Paxton just estimated that the business tax will produce over $50 million more than anticipated so there is no excuse for not maximizing property tax relief, especially as many Texans face foreclosures on their home. Besides all the other benefits, reducing the property tax burden will reduce monthly payments and foreclosures, preserving the American dream of home ownership at a tumultuous time in the mortgage market.

 

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