The answer may be much closer than you think. Consider the following scenario:
Leander homeowner complains to elected officials about escalating property taxes.
Elected officials blame the Appraisal District for increasing the assessed value of the home.
Homeowner files a property value protest with the county Appraisal District.
Appraisal District tells homeowner to complain to the mayor, city council and school board members who set the rates at which the home is taxed.
Homeowner takes complaint back to elected officials.
Elected officials evade responsibility, telling homeowner,
“We have not raised your tax rates. Your tax increases are due to increasing property values. Besides, the rates we set include the I&S rate that must be set to pay back the bonds [debt] which you, the citizen, approved. “
Homeowner walks away in frustration and confusion, wondering how to meet the increasing financial strain of property taxes.
Who is telling the truth?
Property values are based on the real estate market, which is not controlled by a single individual or entity. The market will do what the market will do based on a number of complex economic factors. The unelected Appraisal District sets assessed values based on these macro factors, including what investors, developers, builders and homebuyers are willing to pay for neighboring undeveloped land, lots, and residential property.
However, your elected officials DO have the power to lower property taxes. Even with escalating property values, your elected officials can set property tax rates BELOW the Effective Tax Rate for their taxing jurisdictions.
Elected officials are responsible for insuring the repayment of any debts incurred by the city, school district or other taxing entity over which they preside. These officials set two rates: one for Interest and Sinking (I & S), which is used to service and retire debt; and one for Maintenance and Operations (M&O).
The I & S portion of the overall tax rate includes servicing debt which voters approved through Bond Elections.
How do bond measures get passed?
2016 City of Leander Bond Election: 1,305 City of Leander residents who voted in the 2016 Bond Election made the decision to authorize the Leander Mayor and City Council to issue $71,635,000.00 of debt. Actually, less than 900 voters voted FOR any one of the four measures, thereby making the financial decision for the over 18,000 other registered voters who chose not to vote.
Who were the primary proponents of the bond package? Outside special interests who stood to benefit financially. These special interests funded a Specific-Purpose Committee (SPC) named, Bonding Leander Together, which inundated registered voters with political propaganda promoting the four bond measures. Only one bond measure pertained to the primary purpose and function of government. The others were luxury items.
2017 Leander ISD Bond Election: 9,969 Leander ISD residents from Williamson and Travis County who voted in the November 2017 Bond Election made the decision to authorize the Leander ISD Board Members to issue $454,400,000.00 of debt. Less than 6,600 voters voted FOR the measure, thereby making the financial decision for the other 94,000 registered voters who chose not to vote.
Who were the primary proponents of the bond package? Again, outside special interests who stood to benefit financially. These special interests funded a SPC named, Growing LISDs Future, which inundated registered voters and targeted parents of current LISD students with emotionally-charged political propaganda promoting the bond measure.
They stated that the bond package would not raise your tax RATE. They conveniently did not say that it would not lower your tax RATE. They conveniently did not say that it would raise your taxes. They conveniently did not say that passing the bonds would require setting a property tax rate much higher than the EFFECTIVE TAX RATE, which is what the Leander ISD Board of Trustees has been repeatedly doing year-after-year for almost a decade.
(One of the figureheads of Growing LISDs Future was the former LISD superintendent whose name graces the flagship monument to ego, excess and debt in Leander. He and his wife reside in the Burnet County side of Liberty Hill, within the Burnet ISD (tax rate $1.28 vs. Leander ISD’s $1.51), and were not registered to vote in Williamson County. They do, however, still own a small house next to the LISD administration building in Leander. Stay tuned. )
Some of the same players who pushed the above bond packages are either running for offices in Leander or are funding candidates who are.
So, why are your property taxes are so high?
– do not vote, or,
– do not thoroughly research candidates in order to cast informed votes for proven, fiscally-minded, limited government candidates, or
– keep voting FOR ill-conceived or extravagant bond packages, especially those not related to the primary purpose of government,
perhaps your answer truly is closer than you realize: the mirror.
Copyright © 2018 Don Stroud