In light of mounting sales tax revenues, Midland County Commissioners are looking to take some of the burden off property owners by effectively lowering their property tax rate.
During a long deliberation at Monday’s commissioners court meeting, three tax rate proposals surfaced.
The highest was proposed by outgoing County Judge Mike Bradford, who suggested the effective tax rate of 14.04 cents per $100 valuation. Since the effective tax rate would generate the same amount of revenue from the same properties as last year, and does not include new property, this rate would bring in $1.4 million in additional funds to the county.
Bradford’s reasoning for not proposing a lower rate, he repeatedly stated, was looming property tax reform in the state legislature that would limit how much a county or municipality could increase taxes before seeking voter approval. “I’ve already objected to it,” he stated, referring to Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposal of lowering the rollback rate to 2.5 percent. “The debate is going to occur again…it’s the first item up in the agenda at the legislature as of today.”
The lowest proposed rate, of 13.52 cents per $100 valuation, was offered by County Commissioner Luis Sanchez. The lone Democrat on the court but arguably the most fiscally conservative, Sanchez conversely chose a rate that would not increase the county’s overall property tax revenue and would prevent individual property tax bills from increasing.
“Sales tax is nearly double than what we anticipated last year. And we still have two more months left,” Sanchez stated. “That comes into play in my mind, reasons why I want to go to that amount. We’ve gone lower before and we did okay.”
Property and sales tax revenue each make up approximately 30 to 40 percent of the county’s budget and, to date, a sales tax surplus of around $16 million has already been collected. As a result, the county voted last Friday to allocate $11.86 million to local governments such as Midland ISD and Midland Memorial Hospital.
The county’s better-than-expected sales tax revenue also played a role in Commissioner Randy Prude’s property tax rate proposal.
In between Bradford and Sanchez’s proposals, Prude suggested a rate of 14 cents per $100 valuation — a .04-cent drop from the effective rate. “By lowering it to 14, it’s lower than the effective rate, it makes a real definite statement, and we still actually end up with a little bit more money than last year but that’s because of the tremendous growth that we’ve been seeing,” said Prude.
County commissioners are not required to hold public hearings on the proposed rate, since it is not an effective increase. The final vote will take place at their next meeting on August 27.