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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Texans Take Action to Keep Local Property Taxes in Check

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Across Texas, local governments are in the final stages of deciding how they will spend taxpayers’ money in the coming year and are setting property tax rates to pay for that spending.

Savvy taxpayers are paying attention.

While the time to protest property tax appraisal values has passed, now is taxpayers’ last chance to impact the size of their tax bills for the year, as cities and counties hold final budget and tax rate hearings in September.

Property tax bills are a product of both appraised values and tax rates set by local governments. Taxes are driven by spending, so the way to keep citizens’ tax bills in check is to limit local government spending.

School districts account for the biggest share of Texans’ property tax bills (about 60 percent), but most have already set their tax rates for the year.

Cities and counties still take significant amounts of property taxpayers’ money, though, and they’re taking final votes on new budgets and tax rates this month.

Some have acknowledged the devastating financial impact of COVID-related shutdown policies on their residents and adjusted their budgeted spending so property tax bills stay flat (though not lower, which would bring real relief). Others are using the economic downturn as an excuse to raise tax burdens on citizens, despite huge influxes of federal relief funds to local governments.

Senate Bill 2, the property tax reform passed in 2019, lowered how much local governments can raise residents’ property taxes without a public vote, from 8 to 3.5 percent for cities and counties. Most are staying below that Voter Approval Rate.

SB 2 also reduced the number of public hearings a city or county is required to hold on a tax hike, from two to one. And officials can adopt the tax increase at the same

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