Taxpayers across Texas are demanding relief from skyrocketing property tax burdens, yet some local officials are actively opposing popular reforms to help control the growth of Texans’ property tax bills.
Recent polling shows an overwhelming 77 percent of Texans support pro-taxpayer legislation requiring local governments to get voter approval before raising property taxes more than 2.5 percent.
Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2, identical proposals under consideration by the Texas Legislature, would trigger automatic elections on property tax rates that increase operating revenues more than 2.5 percent above the previous year (excluding newly taxed properties). Under current law, local governments can raise tax revenue by 8 percent before voters have an opportunity to weigh in.
The measures don’t offer tax relief in the form of lower property tax bills, but they would help slow the growth of property tax burdens and give local taxpayers more control.
Yet despite the reforms’ popularity with taxpayers, dozens of city and county government officials who levy and spend property taxes traveled to Austin last month to testify against SB 2 and HB 2 in hearings held by the Senate Property Tax Committee and House Ways and Means Committee:
- Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston (SB 2)
- Brazos County Justice of the Peace Rick Hill (SB 2)
- Buda Mayor George Haehn (HB 2)
- Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter (SB 2)
- Canyon City Commissioner Cody Jones (SB 2)
- Dallas City Council Member Casey Thomas (SB 2)
- Dallas City CFO Elizabeth Reich (SB 2)
- Dallas County Assistant Administrator of Governmental Affairs Charles Reed (SB 2 and HB 2)
- El Paso County Commissioner David Stout (SB 2 and HB 2)
- El Paso County Budget Officer Wallace Hardgrove (SB 2)
- Falls County Judge Jay Elliott (SB 2 and HB 2)
- Flower Mound Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos (HB 2)
- Flower Mound Fire Chief Eric Greaser (SB 2)
- Granbury City Manager Chris Coffman (HB 2)
- Granite Shoals City Manager Jeff Looney (SB 2)
- Harris County Budget Officer William Jackson (SB 2 and HB 2)
- Leon Valley Fire Chief Michael Naughton (SB 2)
- Mansfield Deputy City Manager/CFO Peter Phillips (SB 2)
- McKinney Mayor George Fuller (SB 2)
- Medina County Judge Chris Schuchart (SB 2)
- Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster (SB 2 and HB 2)
- Randall County Sheriff’s Office Captain Chris Forbis (SB 2)
- Roanoke Mayor Pro Tem Holly Gray Moore (HB 2)
- San Antonio City Director Jeff Coyle (SB 2)
- Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley (SB 2 and HB 2)
- Temple City Manager Brynn Myers (HB 2)
- Travis County Constable Stacy Suits (HB 2)
- Travis County Fire Chief Robert Abbott (SB 2)
Well over a hundred more local officials chose not to speak publicly but registered or submitted written testimony against the pro-taxpayer reforms.
Another two dozen officials tried to have it both ways, opposing key elements of property tax reform but claiming they intend to support HB 2 in a letter signed by mayors of 24 Texas cities: Amarillo, Austin, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Garland, Grand Prairie, Houston, Irving, Lubbock, McKinney, Pflugerville, Plano, Richardson, Round Rock, San Antonio, Southlake, and Sugar Land.
While most local government officials were lobbying lawmakers to go against the wishes of their constituents, a handful of public servants joined with citizen advocates in speaking up for local taxpayers:
- Collin County Judge Chris Hill (SB 2 and HB 2)
- Collin County Commissioner Darrell Hale (SB 2 and HB 2)
- Galveston County Tax Assessor Cheryl Johnson (SB 2)
- Gregg County Commissioner Darryl Primo (HB 2)
- Kennedale City Council Member Rockie Gilley (SB 2)
- Lubbock County Commissioner Jason Corley (HB 2)
- Lubbock County Commissioner Chad Seay, representing himself (HB 2)
- Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough (HB 2)
- Plano City Council Member Anthony Ricciardelli, representing himself (HB 2)
- Plano City Council Member Rick Smith, representing himself (HB 2)
Out-of-touch government officials have made it clear they stand against citizens on property tax reform. Lawmakers must now decide if they serve local governments or individual Texans.