Texas property taxes have exploded in the past decade, leaving Texans’ household income in the dust.
Trashing the Lone Star State’s reputation as a low-tax haven, county property tax levies skyrocketed 70 percent from 2005 to 2014. City taxes climbed 60 percent during the period.
Meantime, Texans’ median household income grew by 26 percent.
Fifth-highest in the nation, property taxes in Texas are on track to outstrip personal income gains again this year as county appraisers continue to aggressively raise property values, inflating the tax base.
“Taxpayers simply cannot sustain these types of increases,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston.
In search of solutions, the Senate Select Committee for Property Tax Reform and Relief has conducted marathon public hearings over the past five months.
A hearing in Houston this month revealed a whopping 28.6 percent increase in taxable value on the average home in Harris County in the past year.
“This means an average homeowner has faced a roughly $1,000 increase on their tax bill, or a guaranteed 10 percent increase for the next three years if they have a homestead exemption,” said Bettencourt, chairman of the select committee and a former Harris County tax assessor-collector.
Texas’ other big cities hammered homeowners, too. County appraisers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area raised home values 22-24 percent in the past two years. Austin homeowners have been hit with three consecutive years of 12 percent increases in value.
“Property tax bills paid by apartment owners rose the fastest of all the major groups studied, so renters didn’t get a free lunch by any measurement,” Bettencourt told Watchdog.org.
Ballooning appraisals, and the resulting higher tax bills, are striking a sensitive nerve across Texas. A January committee hearing in San Antonio attracted a standing-room-only crowd of anxious property owners, defensive public officials and assorted lobbyists and lawyers.
“This was the biggest turnout I have seen for any hearing outside of the Capitol in my 29 years in office,” observed Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville.
Bettencourt’s committee, appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, includes Sens. Brandon Creighton, R-Montgomery; Van Taylor, R-Plano; Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills; Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio; Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; Sylvia Garcia, D-Palito Blanco; Konni Burton, R-Colleyville; and Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood. Together, they represent almost a third of the Texas Senate.
Rising appraisals have largely wiped out the additional $25,000 homestead exemption approved by the 2015 Legislature and ratified by voters last fall.
Bettencourt’s panel is expected to recommend a broader series of tax-relief measures at the 2017 session.
Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected] and @Kenricward.