Doing Our Part to Relieve Your Tax Burden
There is no reason local government budgets should grow by 9% simply because your property appraisal has increased by 9%.

Doing Our Part to Relieve Your Tax Burden

By now you have probably received your annual property appraisal notice from the Central Appraisal District. It is likely quite a bit higher than the year before, on average around 9% more.
That’s some nice padding for your net worth. But, as you and I both know, when your property value goes up, your property taxes can increase dramatically. And unlike the theoretical selling price of a home you don’t intend to vacate any time soon, property taxes mean real money out of your pocket right now
The fact is, local government budgets will grow by at least 9% if they do nothing, if they “keep the tax rate steady”. But there is no reason local government should grow by 9% simply because your property is worth 9% more this year.
I understand the normal human impulse to enlarge one’s sphere of influence. The Commissioners Court will be asked to fund lots of new services—all noble, well-articulated, and reasonable—as we discuss next year’s budget.
At the same time, leaving more money in your pocket means more opportunity for you and your family. It’s hard to quantify the value of that.
Although county taxes are only about 10% of your total tax bill, we want to do our part to relieve your tax burden. That duty is top-of-mind as we enter the budget process. Every government should do its part, and not just blame increases on school districts.
Here are some items we will consider as the process plays out between now and the FY2018 budget approval vote in mid-September…
  1. Recent population growth plus inflation equals about 5.3%. That should be the absolute maximum that the county budget grows. This should not be a target number, but a cap.
  2. We need to address the tightening job market and employee compensation. Frankly, our compensation policy needs improvement, and there are some good ideas being staffed now.
  3. Huge one-time expenses in the Sheriff’s Office (among others) exploded our final budget growth by 9% and almost 7% over the past two years. Those one-time expenses will have to be stripped out before we calculate the rough 5.3% maximum growth rate.
  4. We have an opportunity to find and cut the fat out of the budget while at the same time slowing the growth of our surplus funds (see last week’s post). For example, the Public Safety area spent more than a million dollars LESS than budgeted through last fiscal year.
Because budget decisions have a direct impact your current out-of-pocket costs and your future prospects, I encourage you to take a personal interest in the process.