Contempt for Plano taxpayers is on full display after a recent item on the city council’s consent agenda raised eyebrows among residents.
The controversy stems from “Item R” on the October 22 agenda, which appears to authorize the city manager (or their designee) to engage in lobbying activities on behalf of the city. While lobbying is a normal function of government, the practice of using taxpayer dollars for lobbying is generally frowned upon by constituents. Even more so when that lobbying promotes anti-taxpayer measures, as is the usual case.
That agenda item reads as follows: “To adopt the 2019 Legislative Program for the City of Plano, Texas; directing the City Manager or his designee to act with regard to the City’s 2019 Legislative Program.”
Unsurprisingly, the city’s 2019 Legislative Program makes clear that maximizing the taxing authority of the city is paramount, and seeks to “protect municipal revenue such as property taxes, sales taxes, right-of-way revenues, service fee, and court fines.”
Largely due to skyrocketing property values, property tax bills go up concurrently when a city refuses to adopt the effective tax rate—the rate that would keep your bill the same as last year. Rising property taxes are putting people out of their homes, and curtailing their growth has become a top issue in the state.
In fact, just last month Plano City Council approved a 4.5 percent tax hike. In a 5-3 vote, the council ensured that the average Plano homeowner will see a 40 percent increase in their city tax bill over five years.
During the last legislative session, measures were offered that would empower voters with an automatic tax election when cities raise their taxes by four percent or more. Though they met with defeat in the Texas House, the governor and many lawmakers plan to revive those reforms in the coming 86th session.
It stretches credulity to claim that a city employee lobbying against tax reform is in any way beneficial to taxpayers in that city, especially when it comes to property taxes. That Plano taxpayers are funding their own opposition is egregious, and should stop.
Ironically, as bills are also filed to combat the practice of tax-funded lobbying, government employees and officials like Plano’s city manager can be expected to lobby against those reforms on the taxpayer’s dime as well.