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Tax increase scare much ado about little

County Commissioners deliberate as Sam Houston watches over them. Currently Commissioner’s Court is being held virtually, not in person.

County, ESD considering minimum additional revenue needs

By LEWIS SPEARMAN

HARRIS COUNTY – It looks like property owners have dodged a tax increase due to the current COVID -19 pandemic.

Last week talk throughout the northeast areas was of increased property taxes. However it seems this was mostly based on a review of budgets and not any decisions by the Harris County Commissioner’s Court.

Locally in Crosby, talk of a 41% property tax increase for local emergency services turned out to be discussion on August 20 and August 24 where the ESD is likely to adopt the same rate, only with several more people paying it.

It was Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia that mentioned in Harris County Commissioner Court that the county could look at an 8% property tax increase but says, “There is zero chance that during a pandemic and an economic crisis an 8% tax increase would be proposed or passed.”

According to Judge Lina Hidalgo “There is no way could we go to 8%, but we do have to make sure how we’re going to be able to afford the additional services, the additional support that people are going to need.”

Republicans Steve Radack and Jack Cagle credit themselves with blocking the tax increase by being absent from the court’s meeting.

That revenue debate with no increase could mean a reduction in services and even layoffs for the county. Commissioner’s Court is going to wait until the end of this month to decide the economic measures they will take after the Harris County Appraisal District provides a certified roll.

It seems that everyone is dreading tough times next year and attempting to deal with tougher legislation that come to be in the last legislative session in Austin.

According to the attorney for ESD#5, the ambulance service for zip code 77532, “The statutory maximum rate is 3¢ per $100 valuation but commissioners historically had only adopted 2¢ and under. And over the past five years they have reduced the tax rate every single year. So the reason that you see that they have adopted .025 which is slightly higher than what their rate was last year. Their rate was .01904. The reason is all the tax setting processes tries to change this year due to the region two changes in the last legislative session so all the tax offices, the appraisal districts were scrambling to get everything in time because the timeline was squeezed from two months to three weeks. When the ESD#5 commissioners meet to discuss the tax rate they didn’t have the certified numbers from the tax office yet so our office recommended that they propose at their maximum rate and when they adopt they could adopt at a lower rate. You can propose at a high rate and adopt a lower but you can’t propose at a lower rate and adopt a higher rate.”

Generally, ESD#5 is at one of the lowest tax rates of all ESDs throughout the State of Texas, especially for an ambulance service. Probably ESD#5 will adopt a $0.01766 which is actually less than last year’s rate.

Their meeting is to be August 20 at 1:30 p.m. in the building at the EMS Building, 5915 FM 2100 in Crosby to consider adoption of a tax rate. It is not a requirement to hold a public meeting.

Meanwhile, under the same conditions Harris County Emergency Service District Number 80, the taxing entity for the Crosby Volunteer Fire Department, is proposing a tax rate of $0.05 per $100 They will hold a public hearing on August 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Fire Station on South Diamondhead Blvd.

That proposal is greater than the voter approved rate of $0.047879 per $100 valuation but less than the “de minimis” rate of $0.068766.