Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed Senate Bill 2, which includes numerous property tax reforms, into law. The new law will cap property tax increases at 3.5% without voter approval and provide tax reform to homeowners and businesses across the state.
While it may sound beneficial, officials warn of potential problems for the City of Wichita Falls. The bill goes into effect on January 1st, 2020 and it also requires taxing units to post budgets, rates and tax rate calculation worksheets online.
Wichita Falls City Manager, Darron Leiker, says the city doesn’t have a history of raising the tax rate often, but this bill makes it more difficult if need be.
“We did raise it for public safety pay primarily,” said Leiker. “I think we increased the police pay by 9% and the fire department pay by 7% and I can tell you, we couldn’t do that in the future.”
Wichita County Judge, Woody Gossom, also emphasizes the importance of property taxes for the City of Wichita Falls.
“What we’ve asked the legislature is if you’re gonna require a county to do something, give us the ability to find the source to pay for it maybe other than property taxes, but otherwise it’s property taxes that are gonna pay for everything,” Gossom said.
If the city or Wichita County wishes to increase the rollback rate, voter approval, in the form of a tax ratification election, is required.
“It will go to an automatic vote of the public and right now the rollback rate is subject to a petition for a vote,” said Leiker.
While local government relies heavily on property taxes, there is a bright side for local businesses and homeowners.
“In order to stay competitive, to bring industry and new business here, we’ve got to work hard at the local level not to have the highest property taxes for someone our size,” said Gossom. “I’m gonna say we’ll easily stay under that 3.5%.”
“They allow a banking period of three years if you don’t go all the way up to the three and a half percent revenue cap,” Leiker said.
This bill provides relief for some and headache for others, but there’s still time to adjust as the upcoming budget process will not be affected.
Another change this law brings is that ‘Rollback Rate’ will be renamed “The Voter Approval Tax Rate.”
As far as the Texas legislature, Leiker says it passed over 300 bills that specifically impact cities.