During the heat of the Houston mayoral election, then-State Rep. Sylvester Turner looked squarely into a camera at one of the numerous debates, claimed his opponent was lying about his intentions to increase taxes, and told the viewing audience, “read my lips, I’m not going to raise your property taxes.” Now, for the second time during his first term, he’s proposing a property tax rate increase.

Thanks to the voter-imposed property tax cap, Houstonians haven’t actually seen a rate increase in nearly twenty years, but Turner is hoping to change that. He’s asking council to approve a 0.4-cent increase, bringing the rate from last year’s 58.4 to 58.8 cents per $100 valuation. The proposed rate is still well below the effective tax rate but is an increase nonetheless.

According to the mayor’s office, property owners would see a direct increase in their tax bill of about $4.10 for a home valued at $100,000, $8.20 for a $200,000 valuation, and $11.40 for a $278,000 valuation. Though the rate increase is negligible, it’s still an added burden for many, and one that the mayor promised not to levy.

In the 2015 mayoral debate hosted by KHOU 11, Houston Public Media, and Free Press Houston,Turner was given the chance to rebut what he claimed to be a false attack levied by his opponent Bill King — that he wanted to raise property taxes.

Turner called the attack “absolutely not true” and a “total fabrication,” but now he is again proving the attack to be true. The first attempt was last year, when merely weeks after Hurricane Harvey Turner proposed an 8.9 percent tax increase. Ultimately that effort was dropped after Gov. Greg Abbott came to Houston to meet with Turner and personally provide some disaster relief funding.

The currently proposed rate increase comes because of the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimation that the city’s population remained flat. The property tax rate in the adopted 2019 budget assumed a population increase of over 30,000 people while the census bureau estimated the increase at only 9,200. Houston is appealing that number, but had to adjust its rate to reflect the census estimates.

City council is expected to vote on the property tax increase at their regularly scheduled meeting on October 10.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.