Houston – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) announced his intention to file legislation in the upcoming 86th Legislative Session to ensure that all property tax rate increase elections will be held on a uniform election date in November rather than on specially picked, low turnout election days in the dog days of summer. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2AaqTgc) highlighted some specially called property tax rate increase elections happening across the state in major urban areas as well as other districts from “McAllen to Copperas Cove.” The Chronicle Editorial Board followed with “Don’t Hide The Vote” in their print edition (https://bit.ly/2OoSwF0). Several of these elections are scheduled for September 8th, less than two months before the November Election.
“In the case of Harris County, even after receiving $593 million more (a 51% increase) property tax revenue in just four years, a special election is called raise their property tax rate in August,” said Senator Bettencourt. “In Bexar County, for example, one taxing unit is asking for a 13 penny rate increase on property tax bills on August 14th, despite Bexar County having the second largest property tax increase of the state’s urban areas over the last four years.” Click here to view graphs that show the increase in property taxation revenue levels across the state in five major urban counties. Harris, Bexar, and Dallas County did not reduce their property tax rate while Tarrant County cut one penny and Travis County cut 11 pennies.
In what could be a sign of voter fatigue regarding property tax increases, voters in Klein ISD defeated a 9-penny property tax rate increase election in June that saw just 9,263 voters out of 151,142 (6.13%) cast their ballots. “Could the incredible property tax increases already endured by Harris County taxpayers and the summer election date be responsible for the voter’s rejection of KISD’s proposed increase? Certainly in part. Will voters in other areas that have seen large property tax increases, such as Bexar County and Dallas, reject these proposals as well? Time will tell,” added Senator Bettencourt.
Representative Mike Schofield (R-Katy), who has also expressed interest in carrying legislation to address this issue added, “If you have elections that few people know about, it’s like you’re trying to avoid the voters.”
Several taxing entities argue that these summer elections are necessary due to the State’s school finance system, particularly the “recapture” program. “While Texas does need to wean off of Robin Hood, having massive property tax rate increase elections across the State just two months before the November Election is not the answer!” concluded Senator Bettencourt. “Move these property tax rate increase elections to where they belong, the November General Election where voter turnouts are much higher and the elections costs a fraction of what they are in the Dog Days of summer.”
Senator Bettencourt will be filing Senate Bill 2 to mandate property tax rollback elections be held in November and other legislation for bond issues, TREs, and any issue that raises property tax rates on taxpayers to be held on the November uniform election date as well.