It’s not about the money
Houstonians grappling with Harvey damage are not pleased with Mayor Turner’s latest proposal — a 8.9% property tax rate hike to pay for the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Turner’s rate hike request is temporary (supposedly) and would generate an estimated $113M for the city. But it has to pass city counsel scrutiny first.
From the Houston Chronicle:
Turner’s proposal, which will begin with a series a public hearings later this month and reach a formal vote in mid-October, would increase the property tax rate from 58.64 cents per $100 of appraised value to 63.87 cents.
That is what the city’s tax rate was four years ago, before a 13-year-old voter-imposed limit on Houston’s property tax collections began forcing City Council to cut the rate each year to avoid bringing in more revenue than allowed.
Turner is able to propose an increase beyond the strictures of the so-called revenue cap by declaring an emergency, allowing the city to collect a projected $113 million for one year.
Debris removal could cost more than $200 million and will require the city to foot 10 percent of the bill without being reimbursed by the federal government. Houston also lost 334 city vehicles and saw the municipal courts building, City Hall and its adjacent annex, and two sewage treatment plants knocked offline by flooding.
“If this is not an emergency, I don’t know what is. What we’re able to recoup from one year, the $113 million, will not even be enough to cover the expenses we will have incurred,” Turner said Monday. “What we don’t get from the feds we’ll have to come up with ourselves. I would be not doing my job if I did not advance it.”
Houston already has a controversial ‘rain tax’ that’s supposed to generate $125M annually for the city. So where’s that money going? One city counsel member wants to know and filed a complaint last year.
With the average home inside of the city limits valued at $225,000, an estimated $117 property tax hike per year isn’t all that terrible, but for residents impacted by Harvey, it’s not about the money.
Many Houstonians dealing with flooded homes are outside of flood planes and without flood insurance. In fact, fewer than 20% of Harvey’s flood victims cary flood insurance. This group is having a particularly difficult time obtaining assistance to repair their ruined homes. And now the city is considering a property tax hike? Talk about adding insult to injury in the worst of ways.
Mayor Turner handled the storm as well as anyone in his position could’ve; Houston seems united in this sentiment. But in the aftermath, it’s hard to stomach requests to open our wallets further when we’ve watched tax money pay for Turner’s trip to the Super Bowl and a light rail system no one uses, among other unnecessary vanity expenses.
Houston communities are helping one another recover, and the government is doing what governments do best — use a disaster as reason to jack up taxes. Just plain shameful.
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