Kaufman County Commissioners approved a resolution drafted and presented by County Judge Hal Richards voicing their opposition for the tax cap proposed in the current Texas legislative session during last week’s meeting of the commissioners court.
Although Precinct 3 commissioner Terry Barber was not in attendance, commissioners Hunt, Phillips and Cates were unanimous in their condemnation of the proposal which would cap the amount county and local governments can increase property taxes year-to-year at 2.5 percent without requiring a special election. The current tax cap is eight percent.
The commissioners raised a number of problems they believe would arise from such a dramatic slash to the proposed revenue cap including school finance, unfunded mandates and inflation. According to Richards, inflation in the United States has been greater than 2.5 percent year-to-year 33 times in the last 50 years.
“So we’ll have 4 or 5 percent inflation, which will happen because it’s a regular cycle, and then how are we going to pay for fuel and wages and stuff like that when inflation is 4 or 5 percent and we’re capped at 2.5?” Richards said.
The commissioners were also highly critical of the Texas state government for their continued trend of cutting funding for public schools, requiring homeowners to pick up the slack with their property taxes.
“The schools funding started from the state at 68 percent,” Precinct 2 commissioner Skeet Phillips said. “Now they’re all the way down to 38 or 35.”
“Which is where all of the property tax increases have come over the last few years,” Richards added.
“That is 80 percent of your tax bill,” Phillips continued. “It’s not even a joke anymore. There’s not a choice.”
“Yeah,” Richards agreed. “Because the legislature pulls the funding down.”
The resolution voicing the court’s opposition to the tax cap, which was unanimously improved by the quorum in attendance, includes statements like “providing a sufficient level of state funding for public schools will provide significant property tax relief on Texas homeowners and reverse a long trend of declining state funding” and “a revenue cap will not provide property tax relief, but instead restrict the ability of counties to adequately fund emergency services, roads, courts, criminal justice and other services for our citizens.”
As of this week, however, which marks the halfway point of the current legislative session in Austin, no bills have been introduced that would increase state funding for public schools, drawing the ire of Precinct 4 commissioner Ken Cates.
“It’s unfortunate that the legislature really hasn’t done anything to truly impact school funding,” Cates said.
“Rather than take on the real problem in this state for property taxes, they propose something like this that is really just smoke and mirrors to make the county government seem like the bad actor. It’s ironic that our current legislature exceeded their own budget established in the last session.”
“All of us feel the pain of paying property taxes,” Richards added in conclusion. “But that’s really not the question. The question is why they’re not fixing the problem which is school taxes.”
The commissioners also passed a motion to allow the Kaufman Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) to place a temporary modular building at the JP 1 office parking lot in accordance to a memorandum of understanding that was drafted by Rebecca Lundberg and presented and finalized during last week’s meeting.
CAC is a Kaufman nonprofit that works with children who have been affected by negligence and abuse. They also work with law enforcement across the county as well as Child Protective Services and the Kaufman County DA’s Office during criminal cases and trials involving children as victims. They currently occupy a building on Washington Street, but were notified on February 12 that they had 90 days to vacate the property. Now that their request to install a temporary modular building at the JP 1 office has been approved, they will be working for the next couple of weeks to renovate the space to fit their needs.
“They do great work,” Richards said of CAC. “I don’t know what we’d do without them.” The CAC will move into the new space at the end of April.
The commissioners also accepted the commissioners court meeting minutes for March 14, 2019, accepted the racial profiling report for the constable of Precinct 1, approved current members for the Shelter Operations board of directors, reappointed Terry Barber and Mike Hunt to the Terrell Tax Increment Financing Board of Directors and the Terrell Power Center Board of Directors, approved the receipt, transfer and disposal of county owned assets, approved payroll and benefits and approved line item transfers and claims for payment. The court exited the meeting and entered into executive session to discuss the Kaufman County Information Technology Director position, but made no action upon returning from executive session.