Harris County commissioners plan to raise property tax rate

Harris County Commissioners Court has voted in favor of raising property taxes for the first time in 20 years.

On Tuesday, the Democratic majority of Commissioners Court voted in favor of increasing county property tax rates. Republican commissioners who voted against it say the rate increase on top of tax increases on property value make for a pretty big chunk of money if the final approval goes through next month.

Judge Lina Hidalgo voted with Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia in favor of a property tax rate increase that Harris County tax payers would pay in 2020.

“It’s an eight percent increase from what it currently is, but it’s actually a little bit of math in it,” said Garcia. “It’s actually 1-point-something percent across the board.”

Commissioner Rodney Ellis calls it a “modest” property tax rate increase of just over 2-cents per $100 taxable value. He says the average home owner will only see a $37 increase on their next property tax bill.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt says that’s deceiving.

“It’s the value increase plus the tax rate increase,” said Bettencourt. “He added a 2-penny—2.2-penny increase—on top of an already very strong appraisal value increase, and when those combine, that’s when you get a 12-percent increase.”

Bettencourt says with property value on the rise, owners of the average taxable value home will pay an additional $131 next year in their taxes.

“People don’t get a 12 percent raise,” said Bettencourt. “They can’t handle that type of growth of government.”

Garcia says property appraisal is a separate issue.

“That’s why I hope Senator Bettencourt will call a special session and deal with the appraisal districts,” said Garcia. “We have runaway appraisal districts.”

Commissioners Jack Cagle and Steve Radack voted against the property tax rate increase.

“It was not necessary at all in my opinion to have any tax increase of that magnitude,” said Radack.

“There’s not been expressed a need for the additional tax,” said Cagle. “We’re gonna take it and put it aside in some account to be used for however we wish to use it in the future.”

Ellis said in a statement the tax rate increase “will help fund health care, flood control, public safety, infrastructure, libraries, and other vital services essential to the operation of Harris County and help ensure the health, safety and well-being of all residents.”

“Harris County is in a precarious situation because we haven’t built up our reserves to the level that it needs to sustain another natural disaster coupled with an economic downturn which apparently everybody’s talking about,” said Garcia.

Harris County Commissioners Court will vote on whether to pass the property tax rate increase October 8.

Members of the public can weigh in on this. There will be three public hearings September 20, 24 and October 8.