WHAT'S NEW . . .
• The Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has presented the Gulf Coast states with an unprecedented environmental disaster. Plans are underway to deploy strings of snares off the Texas Coast to detect tar balls drifting from the east. Silt curtains may be deployed to protect washouts and beach cuts that could breach at high tide. The various state agencies that are responsible for monitoring the impact on Texas have been in constant contact with the appropriate federal agencies and our counterparts in the other Gulf Coast states. The Texas Department of Agriculture is reporting that Texas shrimp and seafood are still safe to eat as our Texas waters have not been impacted to date. State agencies monitoring the spill include the Department of State Health Services, Commission on Environmental Quality, Parks and Wildlife Department, and the General Land Office which has posted a link to up-to-date information on the oil spill and recovery activities.
• Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus directed the Legislative Budget Board to immediately implement budget saving proposals submitted earlier in the year. According to a press release from the Governor, this measure will total around $1.2 billion in savings going into the next biennium. Today, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House sent a letter to all state agencies requesting an additional 10% reduction in their budget proposals for the next biennium.
• The 3rd Annual Energy Star Sales Tax Holiday is this weekend, May 29 - 31. If you plan to make any appliance purchases this Memorial Day weekend to take advantage of sales, please review the list of qualified appliances that will allow you to save the sales tax as well.
• The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security met on May 3rd in Houston, Texas. The Committee met in conjunction with the Intelligent Transportation Society of America's conference, which brought together a diverse community of transportation professionals, business leaders, elected officials and federal and state public agency representatives. The hearing began with a quarterly update from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Transportation. The Committee also took testimony on three of the Committee's interim charges. Those charges examined traffic congestion and its effect on air quality, the effect of overweight trucks on roads and hurricane evacuation. You can listen to the audio archive from this hearing.
• From May 24 - June 6, the Texas Highway Patrol and other law enforcement officers will participate in the "Click It or Ticket" campaign. As a reminder, effective September 1, 2009, all passengers must be wearing a safety belt, including those sitting in the backseat of a vehicle.
• State Comptroller Susan Combs has released a new website to track how tax dollars are spent, www.texastransparency.org. The website includes tools such as Where the Money Comes From and Where the Money Goes, as well as the Open Data Center, which gives direct access to data the Comptroller collects.
• The U.S. Census Bureau is starting the second phase of the 2010 Census. Census workers will begin to visit homes that did not return their Census forms prior to April 16. All Census workers will have an official badge and a shoulder bag from the Department of Commerce. Census workers cannot request:
- full social security number;
- money or a donation;
- personal financial information, such as a PIN number or credit card number.
FOCUS . . .
In April, the Senate Finance Committee was directed to explore potential methods to improve the property tax system, including identifying ways to increase public participation and awareness in the process. As we near the 82nd Session of the Legislature, the Senate will continue to explore these possibilities. In the meantime, I'd like to provide you with some of the basics of property taxes, as well as some links to help you get involved in the process.
If you are a property owner in Texas, you should have received your notice of appraisal value in May if your appraised value significantly increased. The value of your property is set by the county appraisal district, while locally elected officials of the taxing entities set property tax rates and collect these taxes. While state law governs the property tax process, property taxes are local taxes and the largest source of funding for local governments. According to the Texas Constitution, property taxes must be equal and uniform. All real property is subject to taxation unless federal or state law exempts part or all of the property from taxation. You can learn more about current exemptions from the Dallas Central Appraisal District or the Comptroller's website.
As a taxpayer, you have the right to protest your appraisal value. Protests are made to your local Appraisal Review Board (ARB). You can learn more about your rights as a taxpayer on the Comptroller's website under the Property Taxpayers' Bill of Rights. The ARB begins hearing protests on May 1, and usually finishes by the end of July. However, the deadline to file a protest of your property's valuation this year is June 1. To learn more about how to protest, click here. The Comptroller's office has also produced online videos that explain how to protest the value of your home or small business.
Once the ARB has finished with protests, the Chief Appraiser must certify the tax roll to the local taxing units so they can adopt tax rates. These taxing units, including cities, counties and school districts, set budgets to determine how much money they will spend providing public services such as police and fire, libraries, parks, garbage collection, streets, etc. Proposed budgets and agendas are generally posted online although they are not available as of this date. Most will post proposed budgets some time in June, with public hearings and final adoptions in August and September. Here are some of the local taxing entities websites that you can watch for this important information:
The taxing entities must adopt their tax rates by September 30. On October 1, local taxing units will begin sending tax bills to property owners. If a local taxing unit adopts a rate that is higher than the rollback rate, voters may circulate a petition to hold an election to approve or deny the rate. To learn more about tax rates and rollback elections, please click here.
Many of our local taxing entities have been in the news lately noting budget shortfalls. Be sure to let your voices be heard by communicating to your local elected officials about spending priorities and/or what you are willing to pay for with your tax dollars. Hopefully, I have provided you with some useful Internet tools and resources to be informed and involved with your local taxation process.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
• Texas Online has redesigned their website to make it simpler and easier to navigate for users. The website includes information to help you access government services, stay connected and get help when you need it. Visit www.Texas.gov to explore the new website!
• On Wednesday, May 12, Texas State Parks began to implement a new computerized reservation and bookkeeping system called TxParks. The first phase of this plan features a new, high-tech version of a park pass, which includes a magnetic strip stored with information such as an identification code, as well as discounts on camping fees and store merchandise. The pass will allow users to check in automatically once they reach their State Park destination. You can read the full press release on TxParks and you can get your own park pass.
IN CLOSING . . .
I hope you have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. While we enjoy some time with our family and friends, let's take a moment to remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country. I am grateful for the leadership and courage of all of our servicemen and women.
State Senator - District 16
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.
Dallas, TX 75205