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Friday, March 03, 2017

Bonnen Authors Property Taxpayer Empowerment Act

Insider's Report Vol. 11 No. 4

Today I filed the Property Taxpayer Empowerment Act (House Bill 15) to help Texans hold local governments accountable for setting property tax rates. Government only works when citizens can hold their leaders accountable, and accountability begins with transparency. Our property tax system is needlessly confusing and discourages citizens from taking an active role in the local rate-setting process. The Property Taxpayer Empowerment Act will give Texans the information and clarity they need about their tax bill to hold local leaders accountable.

Unlike statewide sales and business franchise taxes, property tax rates are set not by the legislature, but by cities, counties, school districts, and many other special districts at the local level. With so many entities setting different rates each year, it can be difficult for taxpayers to determine why their bill keeps increasing.

My House Bill 15 will empower taxpayers to focus on the number that matters most – the tax rate set by each of their local taxing entities.

The legislation would:

  • Require local governments to publish annually their “No New Taxes Rate,” which is the rate that would raise the same amount of money as the previous year. When appraisals increase, the No New Taxes Rate decreases. 
  • Create a searchable statewide database that gives taxpayers the information they need to hold local officials accountable. Every property owner will be able to see how each jurisdiction’s proposed tax rates will directly affect their individual tax bill, along with detailed information about how they can make their voices heard in the local rate-setting process. 
  • Remove the misleading “Estimate of Tax Due” on appraisal notices. This figure is based on applying last year's tax rate to this year's appraisal, which is confusing and inaccurate.
  • Restrict debt service taxes to only debt that has been approved by voters.
  • Reduce the maximum increase in taxes from 8% to 4%.
  • Make a property tax rollback election automatic after a government taxing unit proposes a rate that exceeds the rollback rate, no longer requiring citizens to gather signatures to petition for a rollback election.

Texans who are tired of ever-increasing property taxes must take a more active role at the local level, where appraisals and tax rates are set. The Property Taxpayer Empowerment Act will give them the transparency and the tools they need to hold local officials accountable. ###