Elected officials in three Republican-run North Texas counties are choosing not to raise county property taxes this year on local residents, who are already hurting from months of government-ordered shutdowns during the Chinese coronavirus outbreak.

Collin, Denton, and Tarrant counties all held budget workshops this week to discuss their spending plans for Fiscal Year 2021 and propose property tax rates to support that spending. Property taxes are used to pay for local governments’ daily operating expenses and to repay debt.

For the fifth year in a row, conservative Collin County plans on lowering their property tax rate enough to keep homeowners’ tax bills about the same.

“I am pleased that despite the toughening economic environment due to COVID, we are able to secure a no-new-revenue tax rate and actually lower by a few dollars the taxes paid by each resident,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Darrell Hale told Texas Scorecard. “This is the wrong time to be raising taxes.”

This marks the ninth year over the past decade that Collin County’s all-Republican commissioners court has adopted the taxpayer-friendly, no-new-revenue rate—formerly called the “effective” rate—which collects the same total amount of property tax revenue from the same properties taxed last year, both residential and commercial.

Collin commissioners approved a budget proposal for FY 2021 based on the no-new-revenue rate, meaning the average homeowner’s county property tax bill will drop $12 to $611.

Denton County’s all-Republican commissioners tentatively approved lowering their property tax rate even further.

“The county has felt the financial impact of COVID-19 in both FY 2020 and FY 2021,” said Budget Officer Jona Macsas. “The FY 2021 Recommended Budget reduces the tax rate below the current tax rate as well as the no-new-revenue tax rate, while including a homestead exemption and over-65 exemption for the first year.”

At the proposed rate, the average homeowner’s county tax bill will go down by a dollar, to $767.

Tarrant County’s majority-Republican commissioners plan to keep their property tax rate the same, which is slightly below the no-new-revenue rate.

“Despite the impact of COVID-19, Tarrant County has experienced modest growth over the past year, as have many of the cities within the county and North Texas region,” said County Administrator G. K. Maenius, adding the pandemic did not impact 2020 appraisals, but future property tax rolls will “experience the negative economic influence” of government-ordered coronavirus closures.

Tarrant’s proposed budget and tax rate for FY 2021 will increase the average homeowner’s property tax bill by about $9, to $521.

Texas’ Truth in Taxation laws require all taxing entities to calculate and publish their no-new-revenue rate to inform the public of any tax increases. Year-over-year tax rate comparisons are meaningless because they don’t account for changing property values. A lower rate may not offset rising values, meaning a taxing entity can lower the rate while citizens’ bills continue to rise.

The no-new-revenue rate adjusts as property values change to keep taxpayers’ bills roughly the same, in the aggregate, though individual taxpayers’ results vary based on valuations and exemptions.

The calculation only includes the portion of property taxes collected to fund operating expenses; taxes collected to repay debt are approved as part of bond propositions and determined based on how much is needed to service current debt.

The calculation also excludes taxes on new construction. So, even at the no-new-revenue rate, the counties will collect more money from new properties added to the tax rolls this year. In Denton County, new construction added $5.2 billion to the taxable value of the tax roll, while new construction in Tarrant County added about $5.4 billion to the county’s tax base.

The counties’ rates do not apply to city or school district taxes. Each local taxing entity sets its own property tax rate, based on known property values.

Because these three counties’ officials chose the no-new-revenue rate or lower, public hearings on the tax rates are optional.

Final tax rates and budgets will be approved after public budget hearings in August and September.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.