KCBD INVESTIGATES: New state-mandated tool providing Tax Transparency for Lubbock County

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 9:57 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Across Lubbock County, budgets are being approved for the next fiscal year.

“You’ve got a school district, you got the city, got the county, you’ve got the hospital district, you’ve got the water district,” Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish said.

Those new budgets come with new tax rates, so you might notice a difference in what you owe in property taxes.

Most notably, Lubbock County’s new proposed rate which commissioners approved at 3.5999 last month will go to a vote in November.

“Now our tax rate that we’re proposing is 7.5% above what our tax rate was this current year,” Parrish said.

But what do the new tax rates really mean for an average homeowner in Lubbock? Before a few years ago, it was a puzzle to figure out.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) authored SB 2 during the 86th legislature. This bill paved the way for, established by tax code Sec. 26.17.

“Depending upon where you were and what county it could be extremely laborious because you would have to literally go find each individual taxing unit be able to find out what they’re proposing, happen to catch a notice in the local paper of what the increases were,” Bettencourt said. “Most people in Texas pay five different entities, but in some urban areas, they pay nine to 10, and that’s just too much for the average taxpayer to track.”

To use the dashboard yourself, all you have to do is type in your address (don’t include “street”, “avenue”, or any similar denotation) or your name.

The page will show a detailed breakdown of your property taxes, the difference in dollar amounts based on these new rates and where exactly the money is going.

“Part of it is to really upgrade an old concept called truth in taxation, where people can actually see it on the screen. so they know what’s going on with their tax bills,” Bettencourt said.

The Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) says an average home in Lubbock costs $145,000.

The KCBD Investigates team used the platform to look up a home valued at that price within city limits, located in the Lubbock Independent School District.

A home of about that value, with an estimated tax rate of 2.1271% would have to pay about $3,000 in property taxes. A difference from last year of $88 for the school district, $68 for the county, and $36 for the city.

A homeowner with a property valued at $500,000 would owe more than $8,000 in property taxes with the proposed rates.

An $85,000 home would have to pay an estimated $1,800 in property taxes.

The website also includes links to contact each entity directly.

“What we want is transparency for taxpayers to see what’s going on in the tax rate setting process, and to be able to email their elected officials and say that they’re either in favor of a tax increase or not,” Bettencourt said.

“As we go forward, especially between now and November the second, lots of opportunities for the public to come in for for people to come in... We’re at churches, we’re at grocery stores, we’re at schools, please come talk to us,” Parrish said.

Lubbock County has 22 taxing entities, and about a half dozen or so still have not updated their tax rates on the dashboard.

According to the state comptroller’s office, appraisal districts have until Oct. 5 to provide adopted rates to the state.

Once municipalities or districts submit new rates to the Lubbock County Appraisal District, it has three days to publish them online.

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