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Home | Tag Archives: el paso property taxes

Tag Archives: el paso property taxes

Texas House approves property tax reform bill, setting up negotiations with the Senate

The Texas House gave preliminary approval to a priority property tax reform package Tuesday, teeing it up for negotiations with the Senate and impelling the upper chamber to act on an omnibus school finance measure.

Together, the education and tax overhaul bills have been the top policy issues of the 2019 legislative session, and they are ultimately expected to be ironed out behind the scenes — and perhaps simultaneously.

Tuesday’s vote marks a small milestone for House leadership, which has muscled its must-pass budget, public education and tax reform bills to passage, all before the last month of session begins. But the House and Senate will next need to reconcile notable differences among the three measures, and the upper chamber has yet to move the school finance bill out of committee.

“We have done our job in the House — and we have sent everything over to the Senate,” said state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, author of the school finance bill.

Senate Bill 2 was approved on a 107-40 margin after a half-dozen hours of debate. More than 20 Democratic lawmakers broke party ranks to support the measure, which has garnered adamant opposition from city and county officials since its introduction.

A top imperative for state leaders, SB 2 offers wholesale reforms to the property tax system and limits the ability of cities, counties and other taxing units to raise property tax revenue. As passed, it forces cities, counties and emergency service districts to hold an election to approve raising 3.5% more property tax revenue than the previous year. Hospitals and community colleges have an 8% election trigger in the version passed by the House.

“Texas taxpayers are frustrated by rising property taxes. They’re often confused by the process, and many are scared of losing their homes,” said state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the bill’s author and chair of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. While the bill makes the tax process more transparent, “it does not lower anyone’s property taxes.”

“It was never designed to do that, and I’ve never promised anyone that it did,” said Burrows, a Lubbock Republican.

Few attempts to make major changes to the bill were successful Tuesday.

One amendment, from state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, seems to bar anyone but licensed attorneys from representing taxpayers in the property tax appeal process on a contingency fee basis. The change would likely affect the author of SB 2, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican and a property tax consultant.

“It affects a lot of people. We’ll talk about it in conference,” Geren said. He added, “I don’t believe in contingency fees, but if we have to have contingency fees to do this, then I want the lawyers to do that.”

Another change lets taxing units factor indigent health care costs into their revenue growth calculations.

Texas’ top Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott and the leaders of each chamber of the Legislature, have pushed for property tax and school finance reform since the beginning of the session, though the Senate has emphasized the former and House has accentuated the latter, if ever so slightly. Movement on both pieces of legislation slowed this month as both chambers eyed each other warily and waited for the other to move on its priorities.

House leaders have signaled that they believe property tax reform legislation should run on a parallel track with the school finance bill since the issues are so closely intertwined. Ahead of Tuesday’s debate on Senate Bill 2, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, indicated this to the two party caucuses in separate meetings — signaling that the House won’t act any further on property tax reform negotiations until the Senate passes a school finance bill, according to multiple people with knowledge of the meetings.

House leaders have also reworked the property tax bill to make it contingent on school finance reform passing.

State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said earlier Tuesday that the Senate Education Committee he chairs would likely not approve the school finance bill until Thursday or next week. But by the end of the day, that timeline had rapidly accelerated: The committee now plans to vote on the bill Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, there are few differences between the House’s version of the property tax package and the bill passed by the Senate earlier this month. Perhaps the most significant point is that the House offers community colleges and hospitals an 8% election trigger, while the Senate has reduced it to 3.5%.

In addition, the Senate had required voters in small taxing units — those that bring in less than $15 million combined sales and property tax revenue — to opt in to some of the bill’s provisions. The House’s revision eliminated that definition and inserted a new allowance to let all taxing units increase their property tax levy by $500,000 without triggering an election.

The Senate also permitted the costs of providing indigent defense services to be factored into the revenue growth calculation. The House removed that language but included a similar clause that protects cities and counties from being penalized if they offer homestead exemptions to their residents.

Finally, the lower chamber’s version includes a provision that lets taxing units bank unused revenue growth for five years, allowing them to surpass the 3.5% trigger in some of them.

Currently, cities, counties and other taxing units can raise 8% more property tax revenue before their voters can petition for an election to roll back the increase. SB 2 would make those elections automatic and put in place a battery of reforms designed to increase transparency and utility for taxpayers.

State leaders had said property tax reform is necessary to protect Texans whose property tax bills are growing faster than their incomes. Abbott has said on Twitter that “skyrocketing property taxes must be fixed” and that a previous increase to the homestead exemption was quickly “eroded by rising appraisals and rates.

But Democrats and ultraconservative lawmakers have clamored for weeks over how much control the state should exercise over local property tax revenue growth and whether the bill should include school districts.

Schools levy the bulk of property taxes across Texas, and hard-right lawmakers and activists have argued property owners will feel no relief if schools are exempted from the bill.

The House initially tried to strip schools from the measure, saying its school finance bill, HB 3, was the appropriate vehicle. Burrows later reinserted schools into the property tax measure — with the caveat that it was a symbolic move that does “absolutely nothing” in practice.

“If we’re going to have property tax reform, we can’t do it with just cities and counties. We also have to do it for school districts,” Burrows said, referencing HB 3. But he said those changes need to be made in the state’s education code, not the tax code.

An attempt to decouple the property tax bill from the school finance legislations Tuesday earned an impassioned rebuke from Burrows and Huberty, who authored the school finance bill.

After the lawmakers suggested that passage of both bills was critical to meet the House priorities laid out at the start of the session, the amendment sank on a 143-5 margin. Even the speaker took the rare step of casting a vote in opposition.

The most consistent legislative opponents to the property tax reform effort have been Democrats, who have asked for a higher election trigger or for certain costs to be exempted from the calculation.

Efforts to exclude public safety expenses, economic development expenditures and spending on flood risk mitigation from the revenue growth calculation all failed to progress Tuesday.

City and county officials have also maintained the bill imposes an election trigger that is not practicable.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said that “a 3.5% revenue cap would create unintended consequences” and would “hamstring cities” without providing meaningful tax relief to residents.

Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, which already operates under a revenue cap, also said the proposal would have little impact on taxpayers’ bills.

“Last year, revenue caps saved the average Houston homeowner less than $10 a month,” he said, “and resulted in 1,152 fewer police on the street.”

In a statement after the vote, Abbott applauded the bill’s passage and thanked Burrows and Bettencourt for their leadership.

“For too long, Texans have watched their property taxes skyrocket while being reduced to tenants of their own property. That is not the Texas way,” Abbott wrote. “In the final days of the legislative session, I am confident this historic legislation, combined with additional reforms working their way through the system, will reach my desk where I will sign them into law.”

Cassi Pollock and Aliyya Swaby contributed reporting.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: SHANNON NAJMABADIThe Texas Tribune

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

Here’s how different proposals at the Texas Capitol could change property tax bills

Top state leaders have toured the state promising Texans they will feel less financially cramped by oversized property tax bills after the legislative session.

So far, the two legislative chambers have taken different approaches to keep that promise, meaning they will have to hash out an agreement this spring.

To make a difference in the average homeowner’s tax bill, lawmakers must address school districts, which levy more than 50 percent of all local property taxes in the state. A few proposals on the table would provide some amount of tax relief for residents with different home values.

How would those proposals affect you next year? It depends on where you live and what kind of home you own.

House Bill 3

The House’s comprehensive bill on school finance and property tax reform, authored by Public Education Chair Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would lower school district tax rates statewide by four cents per $100 of taxable value. It would also further buy down property taxes for school districts with higher tax rates and limit their ability to immediately raise them. This would affect both homes and commercial properties in school district boundaries.

After getting voter approval in 2018, Dallas ISD now taxes at the maximum rate of $1.17 per $100 of taxable value; under this bill, it would tax at $1.09. Round Rock ISD, a suburban district, would tax at $1 per $100 of taxable value, instead of $1.04.

The original version of the bill would spend about $2.7 billion on property tax relief. HB 3 passed out of the House Wednesday with a nearly unanimous vote.

Senate Bill 5

A bipartisan group of state senators, including the upper chamber’s property tax champion, Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, has proposed expanding an exemption homeowners are entitled to receive on the value of their home for school district taxes.

The legislation would boost the exemption from $25,000 to $35,000 if voters pass a constitutional amendment, and it would make up the lost school district funding by using revenue from oil and gas production taxes. (Because this bill would require voter approval, it probably would not kick in until 2021.) It has a biennial cost of about $1.5 billion.

Unlike HB 3, this bill would not affect school districts’ ability to set tax rates. It has been heard in the Senate Property Tax Committee, which has not taken a vote.

House Bill 4352

The House Democratic Caucus has championed this bill by state Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, as a key portion of its “Texas Kids First Plan” for public education. It would double the exemption homeowners are entitled to on their home values for school taxes, from $25,000 to $50,000, if voters pass a constitutional amendment.

The bill does not include language on exactly how it would reimburse school districts for the lost funding. Like SB 5, it would not affect school districts’ ability to set tax rates.

HB 4352 has a biennial cost of about $3.4 billion, but would not kick in until 2021, because of the voter approval needed. It has not been taken up by a committee.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors: ALIYYA SWABYCHRIS ESSIG AND SHANNON NAJMABADI – The Texas Tribune

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

City: Property Tax Deadline Around the Corner

The deadline to pay 2018 property taxes is Thursday, January 31, 2019. Taxpayers are encouraged to pay before the deadline to avoid delinquent penalties and interest.

Property tax bills may also be printed by visiting the Tax Office website and selecting “Pay Your Taxes.

For more information, visit the city’s website, email citytaxoffice@elpasotexas.gov, or call 212-0106.

Payment options include:

  • Online or by phone at 212-0106
    • With credit card (with a 1.98% convenience fee)
    • With e-check
  • By mail
    • City of El Paso Tax Office
    • PO. Box 2992 El Paso, TX 79999-2992
  • ln person
    • City Tax Office, 221 N. Kansas, Ste. 300 (Wells Fargo Building, 3rd floor)
      • Open Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    • County Tax Office locations
    • El Paso Wells Fargo locations (no drive through)
    • Mobile Bank at Central Appraisal Office, 5801 Trowbridge

Open January 29, January 30, and January 31, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Must have tax bill. Cash, checks, and money orders accepted.

 

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