Senator Tommy Williams
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0104

March 10, 2005
Contact: Lauren Hutton (512) 463-0104

Tommy Williams, Kyle Janek file Property Tax Accountability Act

AUSTIN -- How many times have you heard your neighbors and friends say, "The tax rate stayed the same but my property tax bill increased anyway?"

You are not alone. According to data compiled by the Harris County Tax Office, total property taxes paid by the average Texas family living in an urban area increased 77.4 percent between 1997 and 2002, from $1,403 to $2,489 per year.*

"Enough is enough," said State Senators Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and Kyle Janek, R-Houston, who co-authored Senate Bill 18: Property Tax Accountability Act.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also voiced his support Thursday for the PTA Act.

"Senator Williams' and Senator Janek's Property Tax Accountability Act will help to lighten the load of local property taxes for Texas taxpayers by creating more transparency and giving voters a voice against ever-increasing property taxes," Dewhurst said. "I commend Senator Williams and Senator Janek for their commitment to protecting hardworking Texans' taxpayer dollars."

This two-prong legislative proposal first addresses state requirements for public notification when a taxing jurisdiction proposes increasing its property tax rate. Currently, a local government (other than a public school district) must publish notice in a newspaper and hold a public hearing before it may adopt a tax rate exceeding 103 percent of the rate necessary to generate the previous year's tax revenue using the current year's appraised values (known as the "effective tax rate").

Under the PTA Act, any proposed increase in the rate above the effective tax rate would compel a taxing jurisdiction to hold two public hearings in two separate weeks. This ensures property taxpayers have adequate notification and an opportunity to hold their local elected officials to a higher level of accountability on the total amount of property taxes being assessed.

"I want taxing jurisdictions to know if they collect one penny more than the year before, they need to give notice to taxpayers," Williams said. "Public hearings are important opportunities for taxpayers to voice their opinions and ask questions about the total property taxes they are paying.

"Across Texas today, property taxes are more likely to increase from appraisal increases than from rate increases. Correspondingly, local taxpayers need protection from property tax creep."

Janek agreed Thursday, saying: "This landmark legislation will empower Texas taxpayers by bringing an unprecedented amount of transparency to government. Giving taxpayers the right to voice their opinion at a public hearing any time taxes are raised and giving voters more opportunities to have a direct vote on tax increases will make government more accountable to the people who fund it."

The second part of the PTA Act changes the way local governments calculate their effective tax rate and rollback tax rate. Under the current law, taxing jurisdictions exclude lost property levy and new property value when calculating the effective rate and also exclude new property value when calculating the election rollback rate. The PTA Act removes these exclusions to ensure the effective tax rate and rollback rate accurately reflect the tax revenue available to the taxing entity.

Additionally, the rollback formula provides a taxing jurisdiction with the same amount of tax revenue it received during the last fiscal year plus an 8 percent cushion and sufficient funds to pay debts in the coming year. The resulting rate is the highest tax rate a taxing jurisdiction may adopt before local taxpayers can petition for an election to roll back the adopted rate. Under the PTA Act, the 8 percent cushion is lowered to 5 percent and the petition requirement is eliminated, sending the excessive tax hikes straight to the voters.

"The Property Tax Accountability Act is one vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to a solution to the skyrocketing property taxes experienced statewide," Williams said. "The proposed PTA Act and appraisal cap reduction are desperately needed legislative reforms to safeguard local taxpayers, especially for young families and those living on fixed incomes."

First elected in 1996 to the Texas House of Representatives, Tommy Williams was later elected to the Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. He represents Senate District 4, covering all or portions of Montgomery, Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties. Williams serves as Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Committee and as a member of the Senate Criminal Justice, Education and Finance committees.

Kyle Janek has served as a State Senator for Senate District 17, which includes parts of Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers and Jefferson counties, since November 2002. After serving for eight years in the House of Representatives, Janek currently serves as vice chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, as a member of the Finance Committee, the Education Committee, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Administration Committee.

*All data is sourced from the Texas Comptroller's Office. The cities included in the numeric figures are Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Special districts are not included. No adjustments were made for over-65 freeze exemption.