Bexar County commissioners hear update on property tax relief legislation at Texas Capitol
Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday heard an update on how the county's agenda is getting pushed through the Texas Legislature, including property tax relief.
Melissa Shannon, the county's governmental affairs director, told commissioners that Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has made passage of the Property Tax Relief Act a top priority this legislative session in Austin.
"This particular bill would lower the school district property taxes by 28% and also reduce the appraisal cap to 5%,” Shannon said.
That means an appraisal district cannot increase your property tax appraisal more than 5% a year. The current cap on the annual increase is 10%.
The Bexar Appraisal District told TPR in February that this year’s average local property appraisal increase appears to be around 13%.
Commissioners Tommy Calvert and Justin Rodriguez also called for a meeting with the county deputy’s union after appearing blindsided by proposed legislation backed by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County.
It called for a state law change that would apply only to Bexar County and not the other most populated Texas counties. It would require the number of deputies per 1,000 county residents in unincorporated areas to be increased from 1 to 1.8 deputies. If approved by state lawmakers, it would double the number of deputies now on patrol.
Calvert, who claims to have received the most campaign donations among commissioners from the union, expressed disappointment with what appeared to be a legislative leapfrog over commissioners for more deputies. Those deputies would be paid for by local taxpayers since it would be an unfunded state mandate.
“We’ve tried to find balance by communicating with each other, and it would have been nice to have known this was coming before us as a bill,” Calvert said.
Calvert said commissioners have been supportive of increasing deputies, adding 136 and boosting their pay by 41% since he has been in office since 2014.
In other action, commissioners approved plans to advertise for nonprofits that provide legal aid for migrants who may face deportation. The vote to approve followed some debate over the $1 million aid program.
Grant Moody, the sole Republican commissioner, questioned whether taxpayers should foot the bill when non-profits offer those same services.
He also said most migrants at risk of deportation came into contact with law enforcement. "We're essentially asking ... the taxpayers to pay the legal bill for non-citizens that have potentially been charged with a crime," he said.
Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores said the purpose of the program is to keep families together. "This was started because of migrant and immigrant issues with families being torn apart,” she said.
County staffers also told commissioners that nonprofits that offer legal services to migrants usually do not represent those convicted of aggravated felonies.
Also on the agenda:
- Commissioners selected Jacqueline Lamerson as interim chief public defender based on a committee recommendation. A permanent selection will be named in three to five months.
- Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the district attorney and sheriff’s department for $500,000 in funding for an anti-gang center.
- Commissioners also approved $2.3 million for engineering services related to expansion and improvements on Blanco Road from Borgfeld Road to the Comal County line in far northern Bexar County.
- Commissioners approved a $930,000 budget transfer for improvements to Comanche Park on the Southeast Side of the county.