Feisty, Friendly Constituent
Meets Fiesty, Friendly Commissioner
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
March 16, 2006

Recently I received a rather terse letter from a friendly constituent that enjoys a little sparring from time to time. I thought I would share with you the text of his message and my response. First, his letter to me:

"As a constituent, I asked earlier in the year, what action the County Government was going to take to cause wealthy residential and businesses property owners to pay their fair share of taxes by requiring all properties selling prices to be made public.

Several on my mailing list whom I Bcc'd with original question have asked if I had recv'd an answer. I had to tell them, registered voters all, that I had not. I surmised to them that a no response generally meant that no action would take place. Was I correct?

The renewed interest was based on the following story which appeared in the SAXPress News, 07Mar06."

Greg Jefferson
Express-News Staff Writer

The Texas Tax Reform Commission got an earful about making public the prices fetched in high-end residential and commercial property sales during a hearing Monday in San Antonio.

Proponents say such disclosures would force the wealthy and businesses to pay their fair share of property taxes, making the system more equitable for most homeowners.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth called on the panel, whose chairman is former state Comptroller John Sharp, to consider full disclosure as it crafts recommendations for overhauling the state's property tax system.

Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, authored a bill in the last regular legislative session that would have made the disclosures law. The legislation passed the Senate but died in the House.

Without disclosure of prices for high-end homes and business properties, "we're attempting to fly without instruments," said Michael Amezquita, Bexar County's chief appraiser. As a result, he said, those properties are frequently undervalued, whereas most homes aren't. [...] "We have a 25-year history of not being fair to homeowners," Amezquita said.

Sharp told the people gathered in City Council Chambers on Monday morning that the 24-member panel's goal is "to lower property taxes by a substantial amount" and find other sources of tax revenue.

My Response: "I am very proud to inform you that your County government is doing a number of things to achieve a more equitable property tax arrangement in Bexar County:

  1. Commissioners Court endorsed mandatory disclosure of property sales prices as part of our legislative package for the 79th Session (this action was taken by the Court on October 6, 2004). Three bills requiring disclosure were filed by members of San Antonio's delegation during the 79th Session-- SB 243 (Wentworth), SB 282 (Madla), and HB 399 (Villarreal). Our Intergovernmental Affairs Office worked with each legislator in supporting the bills, although Michael Amezquita, as head of the Bexar Appraisal District, took the lead. Representatives of the Conference of Urban Counties and the Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association supported the senate bills in the hearing process (HB 399 was never heard). SB 242 and 283 were combined and went forward under Madla's name, and were eventually amended to HB 3. However, the relevant portions were stripped out before final passage. We will recommend that this issue be part of our agenda again this year.

  2. Please see my website at www.bexar.org, click Commissioner's Court, Precinct Four and on the right side of the homepage, click Critical Charts. There you will find further property tax information as well as the Federal Deficit/Surplus for a glimpse at part of the reason that local units of government are not receiving the historic federal assistance they used to receive. Hence, there is unprecedented pressure on property taxpayers.

  3. Finally, the State's corporate franchise tax loophole is hemorrhaging out somewhere in the direction of $7 to $8 billion annually by allowing former franchise tax payers reorganize as partnerships from a corporate form of organization and thus dodge really serious tax payments. This has added significantly to the pressure on our cash-strapped State to send unfunded mandates down to the cities, counties and school districts, further building pressure on the property taxpayer to make up for this funding loss!

    These are only a few of the countless things we do besides watching every funding decision we make so that we are being fiscally responsible.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with you just a few of the many things we do to make property taxes more equitable in Bexar County and to cause wealthy residential and businesses property owners to pay their fair share of taxes."

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