HARKER HEIGHTS - A state law intended to help veterans might prevent the City of Harker Heights from hiring enough police officers to best protect its citizens.
Back in 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a law that made veterans who were 100-percent disabled completely exempt from property taxes on their homes. Cities were initially in favor until the law caused their budgets to take a hit. So, in 2015, the state passed another law to reimburse some of that money. But, the law said a city must physically touch a military installation like Fort Hood to be eligible.
While a city like Killeen receives that reimbursed money, Harker Heights does not. Despite being a place with a high concentration of disabled veterans, Harker Heights does not technically touch post.
State Representative Scott Cosper (R, Dist. 54) has produced a bill to change the law. His bill would make any city located in the same county as a military installation eligible for the reimbursement.
The rule of thumb among most police agencies is to try to employ two officers for every 1,000 residents. Harker Heights has the same number of officers today with 30,000 residents as it did back when its population was 25,000. Under the rule of the thumb, that would represent 10 officers who were not hired due to budget concerns.
The Harker Heights Police Department said the extra money that could come under Cosper's bill would make a huge difference in daily operations. And, Cosper said he believes his legislation has a good chance of making the floor.
"Since the governor has added one of his items on the special session being property tax relief, we think our bill is germane to the session and intend to file it," Cosper said.
The new bill would not refund all lost revenue. But, for larger cities like Killeen, it has replaced roughly a third of the money.
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