Abbott Calls Special Election for Property Tax Amendments

Property tax relief is on the ballot in May, but will it really provide relief?

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday called a special election for May 7 for two measures addressing property taxes that passed during the summer legislative special sessions.

Municipal and school board elections are also slated for that date.

Abbott’s proclamation puts two constitutional amendments on the ballot. Proposition 1 would allow the state legislature to reduce the amount of a limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes imposed by public school districts on homes owned by elderly or disabled persons. The reduction would “reflect any statutory reduction from the preceding tax year in the maximum compressed rate of the maintenance and operations taxes imposed for those purposes on the homestead.”

Proposition two would increase the amount of the homestead exemption for the school district portion of a home’s tax bill from $25,000 to $40,000.

Analysis: While property taxes are high, they’re high for several reasons, and the largest isn’t addressed by either of these propositions. Property tax rates are set by the taxing entities (and that’s what the legislature wants to control), but the market value of the home is dictated by, well, the market.

Think of it in terms of buying a gallon of milk. If the sales tax is reduced from 8.5 cents per $1 to 6 cents per dollar, but the cost of milk was at one time $4 but has climbed to $6 and is still climbing, you’re still going to be paying more for milk.

The same is true with a home. Homes that were purchased 15 years ago for less than $200,000 are often selling for double that, and with multiple offers.

Increasing the homestead exemption is likely a worthy endeavor, considering the market value for homes has continued to rise rapidly and shows no real signs of abating. The last time the homestead exemption was increased was in 2015.

Public school districts are the largest portion of any property tax bill. Next Wednesday, we’ll provide a quick primer on how public schools are funded in Texas, and where your property tax dollar goes.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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