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Senate Committee Considers Changes To Property Tax Collection

Gov. Greg Abbott made property tax reform a priority when calling for a special legislative session.
Gov. Greg Abbott made property tax reform a priority when calling for a special legislative session.

Texas senators are considering a bill that would lower the annual percent increase of property taxes cities and counties would be allowed to collect before triggering an election. The measure was one of Gov. Greg Abbott's priorities for the special session.

“The problem is that Texas has received notoriety … for being in the top five highest-tax burdened in the nation,” Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said Saturday as he laid out Senate Bill 1 in the Senate Select Committee on Government Reform.

SB 1 would drop the current tax rollback rate, or the percentage increase in property taxes municipalities can collect year over year, from 8 percent to 4 percent – increases beyond that would go to the public for a vote. The Senate and House could not agree on 4 percent during the regular legislative session, and the bill never made it to Abbott’s desk.

SB 1 would also change this election procedure. Currently, if a city or county wants to increase its property tax collection by more than 8 percent over the year before, citizens have the option to petition for an election. SB 1 would make that election automatic once a municipality exceeds 4 percent.

Bettencourt said Saturday this would give the public more say in how their local governments tax them.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and the majority of the city’s council members, oppose lowering this threshold, saying it would make it difficult for the city to pay for necessary services and that it would provide little relief to homeowners.

Ellen Troxclair is the lone City Council member who supports SB 1. In a press release from Abbott’s office Wednesday, Troxclair said, “Meaningful reform must include an updated rollback rate, asking the voters for approval to exceed that rate, and increased transparency in a currently convoluted process.”

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