A proposed property tax increase turned into a decrease after two Harris County commissioners skipped out on Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, preventing the quorum necessary to pass a tax increase.
Commissioners Jack Cagle and Steve Radack, both Republicans, chose not to attend the regular meeting of the court Tuesday when the proposed new tax rate was set for a vote to be adopted.
State law requires four of the five court members to be present and voting to set a tax rate. So, if the two had attended, it could have passed on a 3-2 vote. But since they were absent, no vote could be taken, causing the tax rate to be set at the legal default “effective” rate.
The effective rate is what the tax rate would need to be to generate the same revenue as was generated in the previous year. Since appraisals had increased, that leads to a slightly lower rate than the previous year.
The current county property tax rate is 62.998 cents per $100 valuation. The new rate will be 61.17 cents per $100 valuation, compared to the rate that had been proposed, 65.26 cents per $100 valuation.
This creates the unusual situation for most Baytown property owners that the four entities responsible for the largest property tax bills—Goose Creek CISD, City of Baytown, Harris County and the Lee College District—all have tax rate cuts in the same year.
The county’s proposed tax rate increase would have been 8%, which is the greatest allowed under state law without requiring an election.
Due to legislative action, the so-called rollback rate drops to 3.5% for cities and counties, prompting several cities and counties to seek the maximum 8% increase this year before the tighter restrictions go into effect.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who represents Baytown’s Harris County residents, condemned the action by Cagle and Radack.
“Our [tax increase] proposal was a modest and responsible investment that would allow us to continue to provide services and protect our community.
“This should have been a priority all along but was not. Far too often, it is easy to overlook the underserved, the underrepresented, and the uninsured, but we are all in it together. I think everyone deserves to be supported in whatever their challenges are.”
County Judge Lina Hidalgo was also critical of the action by Cagle and Radack. “Now, because of their decision to play politics rather than to govern, we’re left with the consequences. Consequences that will have potential catastrophic impacts on our ability to provide services for our residents expect—the very same issues were all agree are priorities, like flood control, quality services for veterans, public safety, and infrastructure.”