Mixed reviews for bill aimed to save S.A. homeowners money

New bill looks to cap property tax

A new bill to lower property taxes in Texas could get passed next year, but at what cost? Critics believe it will take away hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that pays for vital services like public safety in cities across Texas.

Rene Morin and Marco Cardenas are neighbors. Neither is happy about having to once again pay more in property taxes.

“If they continue to rise, we’re going to have to re-think financial items in our life,” Cardenas said.

“It’s been increasingly going up year after year, and I’m very concerned about it,” Morin said.

It’s a sentiment shared by many. That’s why reforming the current property tax system will be a priority for people like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick during the upcoming legislative session.

“People can’t afford to live in their homes, but not because of the principal and interest on their mortgage. It’s because property taxes that are going up two or three times their personal income,” Patrick said.

A 50-page bill drafted by Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt out of Houston would cap cities and counties at 4 percent growth in tax revenue. That would be a reduction from 8 percent. Anything over 4 percent would require an automatic vote by tax payers, instead of a petition drive.

“What we’re looking at is, as values go up, tax rates need to come down,” Senator Bettencourt said.

The City of San Antonio argues that the tax breaks would drastically cut the amount of revenue it brings in at minimal savings to homeowners. For example, a 4 percent rollback rate would save the average homeowner of a $158,000 home about $4.30 a month. However, the City of San Antonio would lose out on $58 million this year and close to $300 million over 10 years.

“That’s money we spend on police and firefighters, new streets, parks, libraries, all the things the public tells us they want city government to be doing,” said Jeff Coyle, San Antonio's director of government and public affairs.

Both Morin and Cardenas said that they would love to save money on their property taxes, but are not sure this is the way to go about it.

“It seems that the savings is going to hurt the city more as a whole, so I think I would probably be against it,” Morin said.

“In the end, the city has to benefit. We have to benefit. Everyone has to take their shares,” Cardenas said.

“This is [the City of San Antonio's] No. 1 issue. There’s no question, this will affect everything we do, so were greatly concerned about it,” Coyle said.

Since most of your property tax bill goes to school districts, city officials argue that state lawmakers should better fund school districts instead of targeting municipalities.

(© 2016 KENS)


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