BY BETSY PRICE
Special to the Star-Telegram
Tarrant Appraisal District officials recently released residential assessed values with an average 14 percent annual increase, bringing an outcry from concerned homeowners.
Having served as tax assessor for Tarrant County for 10 years and as a homeowner myself, I acutely understand the angst over property taxes.
The good news is that TAD doesn’t set our property taxes. Nor would we want them to.
TAD’s role is to provide uninfluenced, nonpolitical assessments of property values based on available market data.
Setting actual tax rates has always been the job of those directly accountable to the people — mayors, city councils, school boards and other elected officials.
Rising property values are great news for property owners.
It means your investment was a good one, and there’s no better evidence of a healthy city where people want to live and work.
One of our goals as city leaders must be to provide the services people need while keeping taxes down.
Simultaneously, it is our responsibility to continually focus on economic development that creates jobs and builds a stronger commercial tax base that helps offset the burden on homeowners.
When looking at your property tax bill, there are two important elements to keep separate.
First, if you believe you received an unfair property value assessment, you have a right and responsibility to file a protest with TAD.
Second, if you are concerned about your tax bill and tax rate, bring your concerns to your local elected leaders.
In Fort Worth, approximately 30 percent of the average resident’s total property tax bill comes from taxes levied by the city.
The Fort Worth city staff is preparing a budget proposal for 2017. With the assessment increases announced by TAD, I have asked our city manager to bring options that include a property tax rate decrease.
Considering a tax rate decrease in our growing city is not easy. Our tax dollars are at work supporting vital city services such as police, fire, parks and road maintenance.
But a tax rate decrease is absolutely the right thing to do.
As mayor, I’m focused on providing superior city services while ensuring we are excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars.
The city manager and council are committed to creating the best-managed city in the U.S.
That includes prioritizing capital funding, which means lowering the tax rate must not create a burden on infrastructure such as improved streets and roads throughout the city.
We are blessed to live in Texas, which ranks as the 46th-lowest state in the U.S. for state and local tax burden.
Frankly, Texas’ current tax structure relies heavily on property taxes to fund our basic city services.
In Fort Worth, local leaders are working to keep the tax rate at only the level required to run city government efficiently and transparently, while living within our budget.
With our current property tax rate at 85.5 cents for each $100 of assessed property value, which is high, residents deserve our serious consideration of lowering that rate.
There is substantial discussion in the Legislature about limiting the local taxing authority and possibly even removing local control of tax dollars.
As Fort Worth’s mayor, it is my job to pay close attention to this debate to ensure that Fort Worth is well-protected to provide services and infrastructure that enable responsible growth.
As always, I invite all Fort Worth residents to join the conversation.
During upcoming budget workshops and public meetings, let is know your views on the current municipal tax rate and the level of services we provide.
I look forward to you being engaged in our governance process.