Texans eager for changes to property tax system as session begins

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick made it clear during their inauguration ceremony this week: state leaders intend to make changes to the property tax systems in Texas.

“We already knew in our heart and our soul what people wanted us to do, but we heard it loudly and clearly, and that was reform property taxes so they could live in their homes and own their own businesses,” Patrick said Tuesday during his inaugural address after being sworn in for his second term.

“This session, we must finally rein in skyrocketing property taxes in Texas,” Abbott said during his speech on a chilly January morning.

“I’ve talked to people from Laredo to Amarillo, I’ve talked to people in suburbs and inner cities, and they all demand property tax reform in Texas,” Abbott said in his remarks, explaining to the crowd outside the State Capitol on Tuesday that the issues extend beyond Austin.

Some Texans are eager to see the system change.

“It does worry me, I think about it all the time,” north Austin homeowner Brendan Sipple said. “I think about at what point do I say I can’t do it anymore.”

Sipple, a single father, said his one-income household cannot sustain further property tax increases.

“They’re taxing a lot of people out of their houses like myself,” Sipple said. “When I bought this house 22 years ago my property taxes were I want to say $2800 a year which was doable, now they are $9000. The only reason they are that low is because I fought them for years.”

Sipple, whose payments have tripled since he moved into his home in 1997, knows he is not the only homeowner in a bind. Texans across the state have appealed their home valuations with local appraisal districts. Some appeals are successful. Others are not.

Abbott said the state “must limit the ability of taxing authorities to raise your taxes… and taxpayers should be given the power to fire their tax appraiser.”
Last year, the former state official in charge of revenue estimates told a panel of education leaders and lawmakers he was skeptical Texas could come up with a successful long-term plan.

“History would imply that we can have periodic successes in bringing down property taxes or limiting its increase but a permanent solution that makes everybody happy may be hard to come by,” James LeBas, chief revenue estimator from 1999-2005 told the Texas School Finance Commission in April.
Sipple is cautiously optimistic state lawmakers will make overdue adjustments.

“I’m hoping that we have the right people to tackle this and see what’s going on,” he said.
Some lawmakers have already filed bills to address smaller portions of the system, but no one has introduced overarching comprehensive legislation.

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