Lubbock County Commissioners Vote to Raise Taxes - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/8/08

Lubbock County Commissioners Vote to Raise Taxes

You'll soon pay more in taxes. Monday, County Commissioners voted to increase the tax rate. The effect will be a 7.99% increase in the county's property tax revenue. They also voted unanimously to raise the hospital tax rate.

The county can raise taxes by up to 7.99% a year without voter approval. Once they hit the 8% mark the state requires they take the increase to the voters in what's called a roll back election. The county commissioners and the hospital are both raising taxes as much as they can without calling an election.

Lubbock County residents at the meeting Monday were not happy with the budget or the tax increase, but most of the commissioners said there was no way around it.

"I think any time you budget up to 7.99% I think you're making a mockery of the system because everybody knows that 8% is your roll back. When you go up to 7.99% you're really pushing the limit," said one citizen at the public hearing. 

Pushing the limit or not County Commissioners voted, and you'll see that 7.99 % increase in your taxes next year. The big items driving up the budget are the new jail opening this spring and more than $2 million in county employee pay raises.

Three of the four commissioners agreed these are things the county needs to fund. Commissioner Patti Jones said, "The last thing we need is a facility out there that we can't staff. So there are hard decisions that have to be made. We have to make them right now."

Another issue brought up multiple times at the public hearing is the budget using $3.5 million out of reserve funds. "We should not use funds from our reserves to fund maintenance and operations. I think that's not the proper use of reserves," said Ysidro Gutierrez, the one commissioner who voted not to approve the budget and tax increase. 

The other three commissioners are confident once the jail opens, the county will get that money back. "Utilizing that money to help us fund those positions as we move forward, those dollars will be replaced with the inmates that will be coming back to the county," said Jones. 

Jones estimates the average homeowner will pay about $3 more each month in taxes to the county.  That doesn't include the hospital tax increase or take into account possible future appraisal increases.

NewsChannel 11 put pencil to paper to break down exactly what this means to you as a homeowner.

In 2007 the average Lubbock home was valued at a little more than $96,000. The tax bill was about $295 a year. Now, the average Lubbock home is valued at nearly $100,000. With the tax increase and appraisal increase the average homeowner will pay about $325 a year. That's a difference of a little less than $3 a month. County commissioners estimate most homeowners will pay about $8 more a year due to the hospital tax increase.

So, adding up the county tax and the hospital tax, the average homeowner can expect to pay about $40 more in taxes in 2009.

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