by Walker County News Today staff
One of the items on the agenda for tonight’s (August 7) Huntsville City Council Meeting is a proposal to increase property taxes by 8.7%. This potential increase would affect anyone who owns or rents taxable property in the City, including residential, commercial, and investment properties.
It is not clear from the agenda or from the agenda packet material provided just who at City Hall is promoting this request or why. No real justification for the increase is provided, only a reference to cost increases in the general fund of the City.
Nor is there any indication that an attempt has been made to reduce these costs or to find offsetting reductions elsewhere.
Texas State Law provides Texas property owners with protections in cases like these. If a local taxing entity proposes to raise property taxes, it must formally notify the public and hold two public hearings to allow the public a chance to weigh in on the request. In this case, if council approves a tax increase at tonight’s meeting, those public hearings would be held as part of the council’s regular meetings on August 21 and September 4. City Council would then make its final tax rate determination at its regular meeting on September 18.
The current property tax rate in the City is $.3666 (36.66 cents) per $100 of assessed property value. So, a property valued at $100,000 would cost its owner $366.60 in City property taxes. That amount would go up or down from year to year, depending on how the tax rates and assessed values change. In our case, the City establishes the tax rates and the Walker County Appraisal District (WCAD) establishes the assessed value for each property.
State Law assumes that if the assessed value (AV) of all taxable properties in the City goes up from one year to the next that the City will lower its tax rate by a corresponding amount to avoid increasing taxes on the population. That lower amount is referred to as the “Effective Rate.” If the City does not lower its tax rate to that lower amount, it is considered to have raised taxes.
In this case, for the coming tax year, the WCAD has assessed the value of taxable properties in the City at a roughly 8.7% higher value, meaning that the City should lower its tax rate by 8.7% to $.3372 per $100 of assessed value to avoid raising taxes.
The proposal on the agenda for tonight would allow the tax rate to remain as high as $.3666/$100AV if the Council should later so decide. Choosing not to reduce the tax rate would thus represent a true tax increase of roughly that same 8.7% for a typical property taxpayer in the City.
By contrast, the County has announced that it plans to lower its tax rate to its new effective rate, thus not raising taxes on the citizens of the County.