County Judge and Commissioners get an Earful at Final Tax Rate Hearing
SAN ANGELO, TX -- “How much is enough?” David White asked Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd and Commissioners Friday night at the final mandatory public hearing on a proposed three cent property tax increase.
The Appraisal District raised White’s property value 66 percent since he purchased his house in 2011 and he was voicing the frustration many residents expressed at the hearing and around the state.
Judge Floyd has presented a budget that requires a rate increase just as many residents have seen their property appraisals skyrocket. The complex issue of property tax valuation has legislators blaming local governments, local governments blaming appraisal districts and the comptroller and citizens blaming elected officials in general.
Dove Creek resident Don Chavez said his appraisal went up 40 percent and he’s had to economize at home and at his San Angelo business. “I don’t know if I can sustain my business.” “I’m 73-years-old and there’s no way in hell I can afford to retire!”
Zachary Saldivar told the court there is a multiplying effect of increased appraisals and tax rate increases.
Judge Floyd began the meeting with the same powerpoint presentation he used at Tuesday’s public hearing. It shows that the main culprit is the 15 capital murder cases pending in Tom Green County. Floyd said for one case alone, the expert witnesses costs approximately $450,000 and that doesn’t include the cost of indigent defense attorneys, DNA testing, housing the defendant, jury costs or trial delays. Floyd said certified death penalty case attorneys cost $250 per hour.
Pct. 4 Commissioner Bill Ford said there are other increased costs to the county including housing inmates in other county jails because the Tom Green County jail is full. “We designated $900,000 additional dollars to house inmates in other jails back in June. We have about $180,000 left.”
Floyd said he went to Austin to testify before a senate panel on property tax relief. “What frustrates me is that the legislators are talking about property tax relief when they’ve already passed a budget that increases school property taxes by 13 percent.”
In Tom Green County, school property taxes are at least 50 percent of the average home owner’s tax bill.
One resident told the court that he represented many of his friends and neighbors who oppose the proposed tax increase and were not able to attend the hearing. Judge Floyd said, “If they don’t see the value of county government then they are good citizens. That means they haven’t accessed the criminal justice system.” Floyd said that’s the largest part of county government. “They just visit the library or go to county parks or just drive on county roads.”
Floyd handed out business cards to all those in attendance and told them he would answer all their questions next week.
Judge Floyd closed the meeting with a prayer.
The current tax rate is 51.25 cents per $100 in property value. The proposed rate is 54.5 cents per $100.
The Commissioner’s Court will adopt a budget and set a tax rate at their regular meeting Tuesday August 29 at 8:30 a.m. The Court meets on the second floor of the Keyes building, 113 W. Beauregard.