By: Sherrie Shorten
CONROE – On Tuesday, August 9, 2022, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court approved a proposed tax rate of $0.3764 per $100 of appraised property values without announcing the calculated value for the “No New Revenue” tax rate.
The Court was aware the rate of $0.3764 exceeds the “No New Revenue” tax rate because a public hearing was scheduled for Friday, August 26, 2022 at 9:30 am to allow citizens to comment before the budget and tax rate are formally adopted.
After Court ended, Tax Assessor Tammy McRae posted the statutorily required tax rate calculations on the county website as follows:
No New Revenue Tax Rate $0.3312
Voter Approval Tax Rate $0.4022
De Minimis Tax Rate $0.3393
Therefore, the proposed tax rate for 2022 of $0.3764 exceeds both the “No New Revenue” tax rate and the De Minimis tax rate.
In reality, the Voter Approval tax rate was $0.3486 (also lower than the currently proposed tax rate), however, the county is allowed to increase the Voter Approval tax rate when they pass tax rates in previous years that are below the “No New Revenue” tax rate. Cumulatively, the county has selected tax rates slightly below the “No New Revenue” tax rate for an unused increment adjustment of $0.0536.
Without the unused increment bumping the Voter Approval tax rate to $0.4022, the voters would have been able to vote for or against the tax increase.
For the last three years, the Court has pushed to adopt the “No New Revenue” tax rate so citizens whose property appraisals increased would pay the same amount of county property taxes as last year. However, the fiscal year 2023 county budget will increase property taxes in a year citizens have experienced record increases in property appraisal values.
County Judge Mark Keough campaigned earlier this year on continuing the “No New Revenue” tax rate, however, he missed large portions of the budget workshop and remained absent from Commissioners’ Court on August 9, 2022.
During the budget workshop, Budget Director Amanda Carter informed the Court the proposed budget was designed to cover all of the expenses for the fiscal year 2023 without further reducing the county’s fund balance. At the end of the workshop, Carter told the Commissioners the contingency remaining in the budget was only $137,000.
Tax Assessor Tammy McRae also encouraged the Court to be careful going forward because any changes to the existing budget could have a negative effect since $3.674 Billion of property values are still under protest.
However, when the Constables were denied their budget requests for new positions, Pct. 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley encouraged them to approach the Court later in the year for any needs they might have. Since Budget Director Carter and Tax Assessor McRae both indicated the need for frugality in the budget, it is doubtful future funds will be available for mid-year Constable requests. Law enforcement faces tough choices in an environment of rising crime rates without funding from the Commissioners’ Court to maintain public safety.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Noack bragged that the $0.0319 cent decrease in the tax rate (from $0.4083 last year to $0.3764) is the largest decrease in the tax rate since he’s been on the Court. However, the definition of a tax increase is passing a tax rate above the “No New Revenue” rate.