Increasing property taxes are a major concern for many homeowners. As a homeowner myself I am subject to all the forces that impact those taxes. I’m also aware that the state does not set the local property tax rate, but rather the school boards, city councils and county commissioners do.

Last week the Texas House adopted the Property Taxpayer Empowerment Act of 2017 as an amendment to Senate Bill 669.

As a former city council member I remember multiple budget and tax rate setting meetings where no citizens showed up to give input on the city taxes. On my own property tax bill the school tax is 57% percent of the total cost and I’m aware that very few citizens show up at those meeting as well. If this bill is made into law it will help voters understand who sets tax rates and when those meeting are so that they can more fully engage with the elected officials that make those decisions.

The bill does the following:

  • Empowers voters to have a say on property tax increases with their local tax authorities.
  • Strengthens oversight and visibility on how tax rates are adopted.
  • Strengthens the rights of those taxpayers who take part in the appraisal protest process by:

-Ensuring taxpayer value will not be increased because the taxpayer files a protest

-Ensuring taxpayers receive any evidence the appraisal district will use at a hearing

-Requiring more training for appraisal review board members on the protest process

-Making it easier for taxpayers to provide feedback on their protest experience to the Comptroller.

 

  • Creates a “real-time” tax notice for property owners that tells them:

-Current appraised and taxable value of their property,

-The tax due on that property at each jurisdiction’s “no new revenue” tax rate, the tax due on their property at the rate each jurisdiction proposes to adopt,

-How their tax bill at the proposed rates for each jurisdiction compares to their tax bill at the “no new revenue” rates

-The date and location of the public meeting at which each jurisdiction proposes to adopt its tax rate.

  • Requires taxing units to maintain Internet websites that provide basic information about their budgets, tax rates, and public hearings so that property owners can be involved in the policy decisions that impact their communities and their taxes. The website would look like the picture below.

 

  • Creates special Appraisal Review Board panels of experienced individuals to hear appeals of certain types of complex properties valued at more than $50 million. This will save property owners and appraisal districts money by more readily resolving cases that might otherwise go to district court.

 

  • The “effective tax rate” is renamed to what it is—the “no new revenue” rate. Any tax rate above that is one that raises new revenue for the jurisdiction, excluding any property that has not been taxed before.

Jurisdictions will have to use Comptroller-prescribed forms to calculate their baseline tax rates. The numbers and calculations on those forms will be subject to verification and those forms will be made public.

SB 669 now empowers taxpayers in two very important ways. First, the bill brings transparency to the tax rate setting process, giving tax payers the tools and information they need – in an easy to understand format – to engage local officials who set tax rates. Second, for those taxpayers who take part in the protest process, the bill strengthens their rights by making the process fair, accountable and transparent.