Over 65, Disabled Exemption Should Rise to $65,000 in Bexar County!
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
June 24, 2004
As a County Commissioner I am quite proud to have cut or kept the same tax rate over the past eight years. Certain critical information bears on your County's budget and on how we handle money. Some of them are:
- State pressure on BAD to "get value"
- The State's use of the County as a budget balancer
- Population growth-service delivery efficiency
- The context of Bexar County's tax position
State Pressure on BAD to "Get Value"
Perhaps as vexing as the seemingly nonstop reappraisals is the State's inability to lessen the pressure on appraisal districts to "get value" in accordance with the legislatively mandated Values Study which the Comptroller must perform regularly. Failing to "get value" can cause a school district to lose millions in State funding. Interestingly, when the appraisals go up, the State is legally enabled to send less money to the local school districts. The failure of the Legislature to find a way to ease the pressure on the appraisal districts to "get value" has forced them to regularly raise values sometimes beyond what we property tax owners believe the fair market value of our property should be.
The State's Use of the County as a Budget Balancer
Unfunded mandates on local units of government are nothing new. The State has for many years ceased funding functions that have historically been State-funded. Last session the Legislature mandated the multi-million dollar implementation of an indigent defense program that knocked out our local program that had been exclusively funded by local attorneys, not taxpayers. Just this past year, the Legislature stepped away from sending $28 million in UHS monies, $7 million in Center for Health Care (our major mental health care provider) and more or less required implementation of toll roads to underwrite previously State-funded road construction and maintenance.
Population Growth-Service Delivery Efficiency
It is not a surprise that added population and growth means greater demand for services. What is a pleasure to report is progress in at least a few areas of managerial advances. The jail population is just one of many good examples. Every year that we maintain a responsibly less jail population of 400 less inmates than a less focused management would maintain, the County saves $7.2 million. Working with the Sheriff's able staff, this has occurred for the past two years! We are also making early but significant strides in our energy conservation and use of renewables.
The Context of Bexar County's Tax Position
In an effort to be both responsive and responsible, I thought it helpful to view some charts on Bexar County and local taxing information. If you are web-enabled, go to bexar.org, click Commissioner's Court, then Precinct Four, then Tax Charts. These charts graphically depict some critical points of understanding.
For instance, Bexar County Government takes about 4 to 6% of the revenue pie chart which displays the percent of our local property tax bill used by the various taxing units. Compare that percentage with the seventy or so percent of the property tax being used by the average school district. Another interesting fact is that about 70% of the County's revenue comes solely from the property tax in contrast with the City of San Antonio which has sales taxes and pass-through fees from CPS that allows for an average of 25% of its revenue to be derived from property taxes!
It seems notable that the over 65 tax freeze is available from the school districts. This seems logical enough in that most over 65 year old individuals have finished raising their children. I do not believe that citizens over 65 use less of our law enforcement or justice related facilities. They are just in a rather limited position from which to pay rising tax bills with limited or fixed income.
The Resolve for All to Advance
All that having been said, the ever-rising property appraisals necessitate action. I applaud the State of Texas for attempting to address tax relief for seniors and the disabled relative to property taxes. It is important to note that the State has no property tax and therefore is unaffected by proposing the idea that local property tax dependent units of government provide relief while State leaders crow about fighting taxes!
In the interest of honoring a progressive approach to an already regressive tax, I intend to propose to our Commissioner's Court that we raise the over 65 and disabled exemption from $50,000.00 to $65,000.00! This must be contingent on the absence of an irreversible tax freeze, which makes an already regressive tax more so. In providing exemption relief, we more nearly target the needy. Perhaps the actions of our County will send a message of strength and discipline to our State and our debt ridden federal government. I know Bexar County can and will rise to the expectations of our citizenry.