The Tarrant County Commissioners Court is celebrating shaving half a cent off the Tarrant County tax rate, but many residents, including newcomers, likely won’t see lower property tax bills.
The county commissioners announced this week it proposed reducing the property tax rate to 22.9 cents per $100 valuation. The proposal is a part of a week of hearings leading up to the approval of the county’s 2022 budget. Despite the rate consistently falling, home values continue to increase, meaning most homeowners will pay more in taxes.
The average Tarrant County home this year has a net taxable value of $238,345. That homeowner would owe $545.58 in property taxes to the county, marking a $23.30 increase from last year’s bill.
For comparison, that same home last year would have been valued at $223,197, over $15,000 dollars less than the home’s current value. In 2020, the homeowner would have owed $522.28 in taxes to Tarrant County.
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Lowering the tax rate every year is a major motivation for elected officials, said Alejandro Rodriguez, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Texas at Arlington. However, it only benefits one party, he said.
“I’m keeping my promise as a politician… But you, as a taxpayer, pay more every year,” Rodriguez said.
New homeowners are worse off than established property owners. Laws protect current homeowners from their property value increasing more than 10% year-to-year. The same is not true for new homeowners.
“The more the market value goes up, the more an appraisal person can bring my assessed value up,” Rodriguez said.
Sriram Villupuram, an associate professor in the College of Business at University of Texas at Arlington, said the county can’t reduce the rate too much without risking having to raise it again in the future.
“It is collecting excess money, but it’s for the rainy day,” Villupuram said. “If values go down… That’s precisely not the time they can go knock on doors and say we want more money.”
The county can’t lower the rate too low or risk not being able to provide enough county services to a growing population, he said.
“They shouldn’t be offering very poor services because they don’t have money, that’s very poor cash management,” Villupuram said. “So the county is careful in reducing it.”
The new tax rate is below the no-new-revenue rate, which is the rate that does not increase the amount of revenue the county brings in compared to the year prior. But there’s a catch — the no-new-revenue rate does not include new real estate in the county.
As a result, the commissioners can drop the tax rate below the no-new-revenue rate and still get more money in 2022 than they did in 2021.
In fact, property tax revenue will increase by over $21 million this year compared to last. Over $10 million of that new revenue will come from new property.
When new residents move in, the county needs more money to serve a growing tax base.
“The new ones are not necessarily increasing the county’s revenue,” Villupuram said. “It usually is a wash up. If not, then the county is obviously making money off of these new homes.”
In a press release, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the county will always try to lower the tax rate while still providing quality services.
“Once again, Tarrant County is leading with fiscal responsibility and a focus on taxpayers,” Whitley said in the release.
Villupuram said true fiscal responsibility balances an immediate surplus with the knowledge that future property values are uncertain.
“If home values are across the board going down that means something is not right with the economy,” Villupuram said. “And they should have collected more money during the rainy day, so that when there’s a drought, they can manage it.”
Rachel Behrndt is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by grants from the Amon G. Carter and Sid W. Richardson foundations. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.