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Locals react to Gov. Abbott's property tax proposal plan

WICHITA FALLS - Gov. Greg Abbott made an announcement on a plan he says will "rein in skyrocketing property taxes."

Part of the proposal would prevent cities, counties and school districts from collecting more than 2.5 percent more in property tax revenue than they did in the previous year, without seeking voter approval.

The plan would also require a vote to increase property appraisals. An effort the governor says would make the process more transparent and avoid possible conflicts of interest.

The final provision in the proposal would require local governments to be more transparent about the debt they carry when asking voters to approve new debt- such as a bond package- and it would also require a super majority of voters to approve additional debt.

Gov. Abbott made the announcement in Houston on Tuesday, with the proposal expected to be one of his major talking points as he runs for re-election. The plan has people talking all across state and right here in Wichita County.

"It's not easy for us to live in 2.5 percent, unlike the state, who can close a jail and tell our sheriff- 'we're not taking any of your people today,'" Wichita County judge Woody Gossom said. "I can't tell, nor can our sheriff tell the local police chiefs- 'no we're not taking any prisoners today.'"

At the county level, Gossom says the proposed limit to what the county can hike taxes from year to year, without going to voters, could make it tough on an already tight budget.

"We're probably going to eat up that 2.5 percent, just in taking care of cost of operation," Gossom said. "Not necessarily in personnel."

Gossom says they often have to raise taxes to offset the rising costs of things like indigent defense services. As a taxpayer, residents like Joni Orris like the part of the governor's plan that would force counties to seek voter approval to raise taxes above a certain percentage.

"The taxes in California are high but I was surprised when I came here, how expensive property taxes are." Orris thinks property tax rates should be best set at the state level.

Longtime Wichita Falls resident Thomas Laughlin says taxes mandated by local municipalities are already high enough and agrees on the 

"The citizens can pay for so much," Laughlin said. "After that, how they're going to take and provide for their own families?"

Similar property tax overhauls have failed in Austin in the past, with members of each chamber blaming the other for the failures. Time will tell if parts of the governor's plan ever make it to the floor for debate.

If you want to read Gov. Abbott's full proposal, click here.

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