After convincing the state to provide Houston with $50 million in disaster relief in order to avoid increasing property taxes, Mayor Sylvester Turner seems to have reversed his course.

City Controller Chris Brown, whose responsibilities include verifying the tax rate, sent a memo to council and the administration today alerting them that his office cannot validate the administration’s proposed 2018 property tax rate set to be voted on this week because it exceeds the voter imposed property tax cap.

“Based on the Controller’s Office analysis, I am unable to verify the 2018 proposed tax rate because it is in violation of the property tax revenue restrictions imposed by the 2004 voter imposed Proposition 1,” reads the memo.

Compliance with the property tax cap means that the rate for 2018 would have to be .584 per $100 valuation or less. The administration proposed a rate of .586, which, despite seeming relatively low, would generate approximately $7.8 million in additional revenue for the city.

While the property tax cap does permit an exception in the event of a disaster, Brown stated that, “an increase or change to the Prop 1 tax rate without sufficient support to activate the emergency provision runs in violation…”

The mayor’s office didn’t provide a tax rate on this week’s public agenda, so it is likely they will address it during Tuesday’s public session.

Turner’s original tax rate proposal was going to generate about $100 million for disaster relief, however, additional federal funds and public backlash prompted him to cut the rate in half. Shortly after, Turner threw the ball in Gov. Greg Abbott’s court by saying if the state provided additional disaster funding, the mayor would drop the rate increase. Abbott delivered a $50 million check from the state’s disaster relief fund causing Turner to back off of the increase – until now.

By proposing a rate higher than the cap would allow under normal circumstances is a property tax increase for Houstonians especially when considering Turner’s staunch opposition to any effort to reappraise property values.

The rate will be discussed at Tuesday’s public session and city council will consider the rate on Wednesday.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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