Taxpayers in Texas’ most populous county will avoid a proposed tax hike because two commissioners decided to skip the court’s most recent meeting.
The Harris County commissioner’s court, which sets the rate for property taxes levied at the county level, was set to approve an 11.4 percent tax hike that would have shaken down taxpayers for an additional $222 million. With three of the five members of the commission being Democrats, who have shown little aversion to increased taxation, the measure was almost certain to pass at Tuesday’s meeting.
That is, until the two Republican commissioners decided not to show up.
State law requires at least four of the court’s five members to be present in order to pass a tax increase. By declining to attend the meeting, Commissioners Jack Cagle and Steve Radack denied Democrats the opportunity to raise the tax rate.
Better yet for taxpayers, the rate will now revert to the “effective rate” or “no-new-revenue rate,” which will keep county tax bills steady for Harris County residents.
“This is taxpayers’ money, not the governments’,” Cagle said after the vote.
“Although proponents of this tax increase tried to couch it in terms of public safety and flood prevention, the truth is that only 5.5 percent of that revenue would have gone toward flood control,” he added. “Most of it would have drained into the county’s general fund for members of the court majority to spend as they like. I believe we owe our constituents better transparency.”
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), a longtime crusader against skyrocketing property taxes and the author of Senate Bill 2 property tax reform legislation passed earlier this year, says that when the legislation goes into effect next year taxpayers should be protected from being “taxed to the max.”
“Going forward, Harris County taxpayers will be able to vote on these type of tax increase proposals due to the bipartisan passage of Senate Bill 2,” said Senator Bettencourt. “The bottom line is what I have been saying for 20+ years that as appraised values go up, property tax rates should come down.”
Harris County is not the only place where quorum-busting has worked to save taxpayers’ wallets this year; two Lubbock County commissioners employed a similar strategy last month.
This article has been updated from a previous press release, which stated that the proposed increase amounted to 4 percent.