HOUSTON - Houston's City Council has voted for the fourth time in five years to lower its tax rate, but not enough to prevent local home and business owners from paying more than last year because their property has been appraised at a higher value.
By one estimate, the average homeowner will see a $41 annual increase.
Reeling from the pandemic, taxpayers pleaded with Council to reject the de-facto hike.
"I implore you, do what I do, tighten your belt find where you can cut, so that you don't put a greater burden on my tenants and property owners like me," said Elizabeth Gray who says she manages multiple complexes.
"It is a gut punch to see that our City is seeking to increase our tax bill during this challenging time. It's not the time and it's not the message of hope we need," said William Smith, a downtown business owner.
But with sales tax and fee revenue down and a $30 million budget gap to fill, Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that the year-over-year net increase in the property tax bills paid by Houstonians is necessary to prevent service reductions and lay-offs.
"102 police officers would have to lose their jobs. Is that what you are advocating?" asked Turner.
Councilmember Mike Knox called that a "scare tactic".
"At the end of the day it's going to be the poor and underprivileged that are going to pay the price, particularly with rental properties," said Knox.
"I do think there are other places to cut in the budget. People are hurting. Landlords are trying to keep people in their homes. And that extra money, I think it's our opportunity to kind of ease that burden," said Council Member Amy Peck.
But in the end, a lopsided majority of the Council sided with the Mayor in a 13 to 4 vote.
"It's such a small increase based on the overall services provided to our City," said Council Member Edward Pollard.