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Texas lawmakers consider bills adressing rising property taxes

Seeing a sharp increase in property values this year? If so, you're not alone, but the Texas legislature is now considering several bills to address the issue.

TEMPLE, Texas — Property values in Central Texas are on the rise. 

The Temple-Belton Board of REALTORS wrote in a report that the median price of homes in Morgan's Point Resort were up 77% from March 2018 to March 2019. 

With these higher home values, comes higher property taxes, but Texas lawmakers have their eyes on legislation that could relieve some of those costs.

House Bill 3 would give tax payers a break from school district taxes by using money from the state economic stabilization fund to take the place of those local property taxes. 

There would also be several programs to benefit schools and a requirement for the schools to conduct an efficiency audit. 

"It puts more money into public education and also addresses a reduction in school taxes across the state," Texas District 55 Representative Hugh Shine said. 

Shine said the bill has only passed the Texas House and still needs to go through the Senate, so he does not know how much the final bill will reduce property taxes. 

House Bill 2 addresses multiple components of property taxes, but Shine said one of the major components is increased transparency on property tax statements. 

Shine wants local municipalities to confront the issue of rising property values by adjusting-- and in many cases lowering-- tax rates so they only bring in the same revenue as the previous year. 

To empower citizens to make this argument, Shine said the bill will put a theoretical "no new revenue" tax rate on property tax statements. That would allow the home owner to compare to the rate actually used. 

If a county or city uses a higher rate, it would be up to the taxpayer to confront elected leaders and ask them to take the "no new revenue" approach. 

Still, Shine said a local municipality should justify keeping the same tax rate if they are getting more revenue from increased property values. 

"This is where the municipality or the individuals elected to the city council, or whatever board it is that they are on, has to make a convincing argument to the tax payers that they have to have that rate where it is at in order to provide for the streets and sewers or whatever," Shine said. "I believe local control is critically important."

House Bill 2 would not force any municipalities to take a "no new revenue" approach, and Shine said he realizes some communities would need more money than was available the previous year, but he said he wants it to be completely clear who is responsible for raising a community's taxes.  

"In essence, [the city is] allowing the appraisals to increase the amount of taxes that the entity is getting without touching the rate," Shine said. "That's why this no new tax revenue and no new tax rate is so critical and so important."

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