Controversial Property Tax Relief Bill Comes Before the Legislature Today

A bill that comes up before a State House Committee today that would cap rising property tax rates has placed conservatives on San Antonio City Council, like north  side Councilman Joe Krier, in the uncomfortable position of opposing a bill designed to give tax relief to citizens, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The measure would cap city budget growth, and property tax increases, to 4% a year, and require a public vote if the city wants to hike taxes by any more than that.

Krier, who is not running for re-election in May, calls the proposal 'dangerous.'

"That kind of cap makes it very difficult for the City to provide the additional police, fire, and other resources we will need as we pick up an estimated 1 million people between now and 2040," Krier said.

The City of San Antonio has joined other major cities across the state in opposing the bill, which the Cities claim would unfairly restrict their ability to fund future growth.  Some say it is a response by the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature to 'punish' the state's cities for being strongly Democratic.

"It would obviously be difficult for the City to continue to fund basic services, like police, fire, streets, and drainage, with that cap in place," Krier said.

Currently, what is called the 'rollback rate,' or the point where an election is held to confirm a higher city budget, is eight percent.

Supporters of the measure say Cities could still raise taxes more than four percent, but would have to be prepared to sell the higher tax rate to the voters, to give them the opportunity to, in the words of one supporter, 'decide how much government they can afford.'

Supporters also point out that similar measures are in place to restrict state spending, and Gov. Abbott and other state leaders are taking steps to deal with lower income due to the oil price drop, and city governments should be willing to take some of the cuts as well.

The City of San Antonio argues that city taxes are usually about 1/3 of a city property owner's total tax bill, and, while the measure would cripple City government, that would mean that most homeowners would see tax relief of about $4 a month, due to the fact that taxes for the local school district, which is generally more than half of the total tax bill, and those budgets would not be capped at all. 

Krier says if the Legislature really wants to give homeowners meaningful tax relief, it would change the way public schools are funded, and pile less of the responsibility for school funding onto local property owners.

A companion bill in the Legislature would also restrict the ability of county appraisal districts to raise property values, outlawing value increases of more than 5% in a year, and setting up the State Comptroller's office as an appeal body to consider appeals.  Currently, county appraisal districts are led by elected officials, and some lawmakers say that means they are beholden to increase property valuations a lot, to provide more tax money for the entities their board members represent.

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