Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a landmark measure that will cap future increases in local property taxes to no more than 3.5 percent, unless voters give their OK in an election.
"With Senate Bill 2, Texas has taken meaningful steps to reform property taxes by reining in the ability of local taxing authorities to increase taxes, implementing appraisal reform and ensuring greater transparency in the property tax process," Abbott said in a prepared statement.
The governor signed SB 2 at a ceremony at Wally’s Burger Express in Austin, which the Governor’s Office said has recently faced escalating property taxes. This year, the company’s property taxes soared 44 percent, Abbott said.
The new law lowers what’s called the property tax rollback rate for Texas counties and municipalities to 3.5 percent. That means property tax revenues flowing to local governments can’t be more than 3.5 percent above the level of the previous year, unless local voters approve of a larger increase in a tax-ratification election.
Local government officials, including some public safety officers, have criticized SB 2, arguing that it would severely restrict the actions of local agencies by lowering the rollback rate from 8 percent to 3.5 percent. The bill would hurt cities experiencing high growth and development and those attempting to respond to natural disasters, critics said.
But the Texas Municipal League noted this month that under the terms of SB 2, a city or county that is included in a disaster area declared by the president or the governor has the flexibility to use an 8 percent rollback rate for a limited time period.
Others criticized the Texas legislature for not doing more to give Texas property taxpayers immediate relief from mushrooming tax bills, rather than limits on future tax increases.
The legislation will also require tax agencies to post their budget numbers, tax rates and formulas used in calculating tax rates on the Web, according to Abbott. In addition, appraisal review boards (ARBs) will be banned from raising the value of a resident’s property over its initial value.
The new law will also give property owners access to all evidence appraisal districts plan to present at ARB hearings at no charge.
“We made it clear from the outset of this session that our goal was not to simply mask the problem of skyrocketing property taxes but to make transformative changes that would provide meaningful and lasting reform," Abbott said during the signing ceremony on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, the governor also signed public education reform measures that included $5.1 billion to reduce what Texans pay in property taxes.