Who is the Real Culprit Behind Rising Property Taxes in Montgomery County?
by Charles Frantes on February 19, 2018 at 12:26 PM
There is much heated debate right now over skyrocketing property taxes in Texas and who is to blame. Who's the real culprit? Who's been fighting to cut your property taxes in Montgomery County? With candidates Craig Doyal and Mark Keough vying for the Republican primary vote for Montgomery County Judge, a look at how they have affected your property taxes in their time as elected officials could provide insight as to how they might affect your property taxes in the future as County Judge.
In the last Texas Legislative session, lawmakers in Austin, including State Representative Mark Keough (HD 15), quietly voted to allow your property bill to INCREASE by shifting even more responsibility for public education funding from the state to local taxpayers. That vote means the local school, or “ISD” portion of your Montgomery County property taxes has the potential to increase by over 14%. In 2017, school taxes represented 45.13% of the amount billed to the average Montgomery County homeowner for property taxes. School taxes are, by far, the LARGEST slice of the residential property tax pie.
In contrast, the Montgomery County government represented only 13.97% of the average home property tax bill in 2017. That’s a DECREASE from 16.37% of the average property tax bill in 2016. Homeowners can thank County Judge Craig Doyal and the Montgomery County Commissioners Court for reducing the county government tax rate from .4767 in 2015 to .4667 in 2016 and for introducing a new 20% homestead exemption from county taxes in 2017.
Our state legislators are hoping you won’t realize that instead of being conservative and cutting wasteful spending to balance the state’s budget and avoid raising taxes, they just reduced the state’s portion of funding to public schools.
Even though it is their constitutional responsibility at the state level to fund public education, the state did not live up to its responsibility and cut school funding instead. Therefore, by the end of tax year 2018, you could potentially be paying up to 14% percent more on the biggest portion of your property tax bill. Why? By shifting more of the school funding burden to local taxpayers, the state legislators free up state budget dollars to be spent elsewhere.
The budget our state representatives, including Representative Mark Keough, voted to pass at the end of the last legislative session states that it depends on property taxes going up by 7 percent the first year, and 6.8 percent the next.
"Property values, and the estimates of local tax collections on which they are based, shall be increased by 7.04 percent for tax year 2017 and by 6.77 percent for tax year 2018.”
So, in other words, the Texas State Legislature is depending on appraisal boards to raise home values and increase your property taxes so they can afford their state budget. Does all that extra money you could pay in property taxes mean that your local schools will have 14% percent more funding? Not necessarily. It just means local school boards may be forced to increase school taxes to maintain their current funding levels.
For perspective, from 2015 to 2017, the average school tax billed to Montgomery County property tax payers rose from $3183 to $3276, an increase of 2.9%. Future increases could be more substantial because of the actions of our state legislators and their state budgeting shell game. Instead of legislating real property tax reform, lawmakers in Austin have refused to have the difficult discussion about how the state should be funding public education.
By comparison, the average Montgomery County government tax decreased from $1206 to $1014, a 15.9% decrease, led by Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and the County Commissioners Court. Judge Doyal reduced the county budget by 5.6% in 2017, cutting wasteful government spending, and also maintained an AAA credit rating for Montgomery County to minimize the amount of tax dollars we spend on interest payments.
It is important for property owners to understand the factors that drive up property taxes in Montgomery County. The increasing property tax burden is a serious concern and should be managed in a way that respects the dignity of home ownership.
One of the most beautiful things about American democracy and our state constitution is that voters have the power to elect delegates at the local and state level who will legislate policies that represent the will of the people. Residents of Montgomery County who favor limited, efficient government spending and lower taxes, can use their votes on March 6th to elect candidates that will adhere to and achieve these fundamental conservative ideals.
It’s one thing to talk about cutting property taxes, but it’s another thing to actually do it. From examining how the candidates for Montgomery County judge have affected our property taxes in their time as elected officials, one thing is clear: Craig Doyal has reduced them, and Mark Keough voted to raise them.