Recently, a reader wrote a letter to the editor that contained inaccuracies about my testimony before the State Ways & Means Committee on House Bill 2.
Before I clarify those points, I’d like to explain the bigger picture. The town of Flower Mound has an election scheduled every year. State senators are only elected every four years, and state representatives are only elected every two years. It’s also much more common for a resident to see a town official at the grocery store, bank, etc. than it is to see their state officials. My point is, local governments are a lot more accessible and accountable than the State Legislature.
HB 2 will basically make some changes to the appraisal process, as well as, implement a 2.5-percent revenue cap. If a local government’s existing tax base increases by more than 2.5 percent, an automatic election is triggered. We all want to pay less taxes, myself included, so it sounds great if you take the bill at face value. However, one size doesn’t fit all.
Flower Mound, for example, takes pride in having landscaped medians. Not every community has the same priorities. Therefore, is it better for a state official from Houston or west Texas to decide what’s best for Flower Mound or local officials that are elected by Flower Mound residents? As I stated in my testimony, I am in favor of property tax relief and I am in favor of appraisal reform (which is one of the major problems). I never said that the cap should stay at 8 percent. We were kidding around, and I suggested that it be closer to 7.9 percent, but it was obvious that I was kidding. Here’s the link: https://house.texas.gov/video-audio/committee-broadcasts/. It’s the Feb. 27 Ways and Means Committee, and my testimony starts at the 8 hour 41 minute mark (I testified at close to 9 p.m.).
One of the issues is that the town’s tax rate only makes up around 21 percent of a resident’s tax bill. The high majority of the bill is made up of school taxes. I’ve always said that if the state wants real tax relief, they need to fix school finances. Another issue with HB 2 is that an election would need to be held in November but our fiscal year starts in October. Therefore, we’d need to prepare two budgets (one if the election passed and one if it didn’t). Also, since I’ve been here (not taking credit for it, but it’s worth noting), the Town Council has lowered the tax rate to its lowest level in almost 30 years. The council also approved the town’s new homestead exemption. The town did that without needing the Legislature to make us do it.
I’m always going to stand up for what’s best for Flower Mound, while working to implement the mayor and Town Council’s vision. The State Legislature is trying to do whatever they can to limit decision making on the local level. They previously undermined the town’s ability to regulate gas drilling. Last session, the state also diluted our tree preservation requirements. In this session, they’re trying to force all cities to allow homes and businesses to be built (as external building materials, as well) with things like particle board and plywood. If there’s a vacant lot near you, this would be able to happen. This change would undermine our Master Plan. Also, the State is also discussing other legislation/proposals that would do the following:
- Prevent towns from having a juvenile curfew
- Increase the state sales tax rate by $.01
- Prevent towns from regulating any of the problems associated with short-term rentals
These items, as well as town taxes, should be decided by Flower Mound voters. The town tracks several pages of proposed legislation, and we routinely contact our legislators, as well as those in other parts of the state, to help protect the town. If I wasn’t advocating for the town, it would be considered a dereliction of duty.
Flower Mound town manager