Montgomery County is currently the only county in the Houston area that does not offer a general homestead exemption for taxpayers. However, amid outcry from local taxpayers, an item regarding homestead exemptions will appear on the agenda to be discussed at the next commissioners court meeting.
Texas state law allows local governments to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of a person’s residence from taxation. For example, if someone with the full homestead exemption owned a home worth $100,000, they would only be taxed on $80,000.
Many counties across the state have taken advantage of this law to provide property tax relief for residents. Montgomery County currently has an exemption for senior citizens, but its school districts and most of its municipalities offer general homestead exemptions for all homeowners.
Some county officials have been cautious about giving homeowners real property tax relief, saying that it would cut revenue needed for core services. However, commissioners court has given millions of dollars in tax abatements to large, politically connected corporations.
An email blast from local activist Kelli Cook first brought the county’s lack of an exemption to the forefront. County Commissioner James Noack was quick to lead on the issue, requesting the item be placed on the court agenda.
“Currently Montgomery County only offers $35,000 in exemptions to those over the age of 65,” said Noack. “I am seeking a potential homestead exemption for all property owners.”
Noack has called for commissioners to consider a homestead exemption of “up to 20%,” the maximum allowed by state law. He believes a 10 percent exemption, which would save taxpayers $13.9 million, would be easy, since growth is expected to bring in $12.8 million next year.
“That means the county’s growth alone will almost generate the revenue needed for a 10 percent homestead exemption,” Noack said. “This should be the starting point for the court.”
Noack has also proposed cutting spending by 5 percent, yielding taxpayers another $17 million in savings, which would be more than enough to enable a full homestead exemption.
However, Cook and other activists worry that some commissioners will not be as receptive to cutting property taxes, especially since revenue is needed to support an increasingly bloated budget.
In fact, County Judge Craig Doyal, who is currently under indictment, chided Noack for wanting to reign in the court’s reckless spending, stating that meaningful property tax relief would be “irresponsible.”
“A 20 percent homestead exemption in one year, as has been suggested by Commissioner James Noack, is irresponsible, and would cripple law enforcement and other vital services we must continue to fund to keep up with our rapid growth,” Doyal stated in a press release.
Commissioners Court will consider the general homestead exemption at their Feb. 14th meeting at 9:30 AM, on the fourth floor of the Sadler Building, 501 N Thompson, in Conroe.
“I am concerned that not all commissioners will choose to protect the tax payers and may vote against it or want a smaller cut.” Said Cook, “I urge everyone to contact the commissioners and demand they vote for a full and immediate homestead exemption that will bring immediate and swift tax payer relief.”