by Walker County News Today staff
At its December 18 meeting the Huntsville City Council passed a resolution to oppose an initiative that has gained considerable momentum at the State level to try to find a way to help citizens slow the rate of local tax increases.
In the recent state-wide election both Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick campaigned strongly in favor of passing legislation that would lower the existing limit on the amount of the annual property tax increase that local taxing entities could impose without first getting voter approval.
In the case of Walker County, both State Representative Bailes and State Senator Schwertner have advocated for and voted for similar legislation.
Such legislation received considerable attention in the 85th Legislature but didn’t make it out of the House-Senate reconciliation process before the end of the session. It is expected to be taken up again by the 86th Legislature that begins in January.
The resolution passed by Huntsville City Council did not identify specific legislation that Council opposed, only that it opposed “state legislation that interferes with local services and local revenue or that limits local control.”
By contrast, the legislation being worked on in Austin would not limit the right of local governing entities to impose property taxes but would require voter approval if a proposed increase exceeded a specified cap, such as 2.5%.
The resolution goes on to call out “state officials who wish to dictate that every community and neighborhood conform to their agenda” and “state officials attempting to put one-size-fits-all on the annual budgets of all cities and counties through revenue caps and spending limits under the guise of property tax relief.” It further calls out “some in the Texas Legislature who have willfully disregarded the voice of the voters of Texas cities and pre-empted the will of Texans.”
The specifics of these allegations and their factual basis was not clear from the resolution or other information made public by the City. Nor was it clear which state officials were the intended target of their criticism.
The resolution does raise the question of exactly what is meant by “local control” when it comes to property taxes. It appears that Huntsville City Council may be taking the position that local elected officials (city, county, and other taxing entities) should have control over the tax rate while those in Austin appear to take the position that voters should have the final say if a rate increase exceeds a certain amount.
In other business at the December 18 meeting, Council approved the acquisition of an armored vehicle for the police department SWAT Team and a wheel loader with rake for the Street Division of the Public Works Department.
Council also accepted a petition from the Weatherford Corporation to have the City annex 14.95 acres adjacent to its complex on SH 75 South. The City scheduled two public hearings to hear public comments on the petition.