Taxpayers eager for relief after property tax reform law is signed into law

Property tax reform bill signed into law

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - As some Lubbock taxpayers deal with $24,000 increases to property appraisals, some Texas lawmakers are celebrating the Governor’s approval of a property tax reform bill passed in the 86th Legislative Session.

Local property owners like Cheri Strait, Manager of Affordable Moving of Lubbock, welcomes the changes the bill brings. This year she’s seen a rental property appraisal increase from around $59,000 to around $83,000.

“That’s a large amount,” Strait said. “We have several of [our properties] that have increased. That was probably the most.”

Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 2 Wednesday in Austin. Among legislators at his side were Representative Dustin Burrows and Senator Charles Perry.

As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Burrows helped author key initiatives of the bill. The major reform is the lowering of the tax rollback rate from 8 percent to 3.5 percent. This will require cities and counties to get voter approval if they seek a property tax revenue increase of 3.5 percent or more.

“Texans are fed up with property tax hikes and this bill addresses the helplessness Texans feel in this regard,” Rep. Burrows said in a statement. “My House colleagues and I are proud to have worked with the Senate and Governor to steer the legislative process in an inclusive manner, a manner that allowed all members of the legislature to represent their constituents in the bill’s structure."

The bill also requires taxing entities to publish taxing information such as rates, proposed increases and budgets online. Burrows hopes both aspects of the bill increase taxpayer collaboration with taxing entities and the budget process.

“Control and transparency, those are the key focuses of this bill," Burrows said. "This legislation will enable Texas taxpayers a more active role at the local level, where appraisals and tax rates are set. This gives taxpayers the transparency and the tools they need to do that.”

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope says the transparency is, “very good.” He believes this will make the property tax and appraisal process easier to understand. His positivity with the bill ends when thinking about the City’s budget.

“I think we would all like property tax relief,” Mayor Pope said. “I don’t think this bill provides that. It’s minuscule. I think there will be more relief with from what I know about the school finance bill, I think there will be more relief there, not certainly on House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2.”

He and other leaders at municipal and county levels have lobbied lawmakers to not decrease the rollback rate, arguing it will take funding away from public services. Pope tells KCBD in a 10-year average, the City’s property tax growth has gone up less than 3 percent in most years.

“There have been years where it’s gone up more than 3.5 but there have been some years where it has gone down,” Pope said. “We’ll see how that plays out. That was my biggest concern and that’s why [mayors] worked so hard with lawmakers to make sure we had the flexibility to address the needs of our community, public safety, to take care of our streets, take care of what we already have, and in our case and be able to address growth. Growth is not counted against us. That’s one of the good things about this bill.”

The bill requires increases to training for Appraisal Review Board members and arbitrators, according to the Office of the Governor. It also prevents the increase to a property value appraisal after protesting.

With the appraisal process primarily impacting Strait and their business, she hopes there are more reforms to the appraisal practices. She says older rental homes are increasing in value while newer ones decrease.

“We haven’t done anything except maintain [the home],” Strait said. “This is just reoccurring, reoccurring every year it goes up.”

Property tax relief from the 86th Session is expected to come from a combination of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 3. HB 3 was signed Tuesday and gives more than $5 billion to buy down property taxes of local school districts.

Copyright 2019 KCBD. All rights reserved.