The focus will be on property taxes when Texas lawmakers convene for the 85th session of the Legislature on January 10.
Among the bills pre-filed is a measure designed to increase the accountability of appraisal districts and make it easier for property owners to challenge higher tax rates through ratification elections.
SB 2, also known as the Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017, proposes creating a Property Tax Administration Advisory Board within the Texas Comptroller's office to provide state oversight for appraisal districts and local tax offices.
If the bill becomes law, this advisory board will make recommendations concerning:
Proposed property tax rules, forms, and procedures
Standards for appraisal district and tax office administration
Property value studies and ratio studies
Appraisal computer hardware and software needs
The bill also requires members of appraisal district boards to be elected officials within their respective counties. Currently, board members are appointed by the various taxing entities.
The bill cuts the amount a tax rate may rise before triggering a rollback election in half. Currently, it takes an increase of more than 8% in the tax rate before taxpayers can call for a vote. In larger counties, at least 7% of the voters must sign necessary petitions to request the election.
SB 2 lowers the ratification level to 4% and removes the petition requirements entirely. It also requires rollback elections be held in November to generate the maximum exposure to voters.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Paul Bettencourt said, "As values go up, tax rates need to come down. If local officials want to go for a higher rate, they can schedule an election." Bettencourt is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief. He filed SB 2 on the same day that that the committee released a 90-page report recommending changes to the state's property tax system. To read the full report, click here.