The Harris County Auditor’s Office recently released its monthly report for February 2022, which is the County’s fiscal year end. There is a lot to unpack in the report. But the number that jumped out at me was the increase in property tax receipts. From FY2021 to FY2022 property tax receipts jumped to over 7%. During that same time period, inflation for the Houston region was 1% and the County’s population was unchanged. Yet the County collected over $113 million more from its residents than the year before.
You may recall that in September 2019, County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis voted to raise property taxes by 8%. This is a link to the video of that meeting where the discussion and vote took place. The discussion about raising property taxes begins at 26:19 of Item I, Part 1 of 2. The actual votes are taken beginning at 1:31:00 or you can see just the vote in this clip posted by my friend Charles Blain.
However, in a second required vote, Commissioners Radack and Cagle boycotted the meeting, blocking the increase. In reaction, Judge Hidalgo said, “Unfortunately, today commissioners Cagle and Radack chose to hide rather than face the tough reality of the impact that extreme revenue caps will have on our county,” and called the failure to increase taxes by 8% “dangerous.”
Well, those “extreme revenue caps,” which were in effect last year, allowed the County to collect new revenue at seven times the rate of inflation at a time that the County’s population barely increased. Had the tax increase proposed by Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia passed, the County would have collected almost 20% or roughly $350 million more from Harris County taxpayers last year. Even more significantly, it would have established a base from which the Court would have been able to continue to raise taxes even higher indefinitely into the future without getting taxpayer approval.
I would encourage to look at your tax bill last year and calculate what an additional 13% in County taxes would have cost you. And then think about paying that additional amount each year in the future.
There are three positions on the Commissioners Court which are up for election this November: the County Judge and Commissioner Precincts 2 and 4. The outcome of this election will determine whether your county property taxes will continue to spiral higher. I plan to ask each of the candidates for these three positions to take a pledge that they will not vote to increase the property tax rate during their term. Any of them who refuse to do so will not get my vote.