Waxahachie is proposing to keep the property tax rate at 0.68 cents per $100 to secure more tax revenue for the city.
The proposal was laid out on Aug. 21 by City of Waxahachie Director of Finance Charles Harris at city hall during the first public hearing on the proposed tax rate for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Several Waxahachie residents took to the podium to share their thoughts with the city council.
"I understand that we have expenses, and we have to pay people's salaries and whatnot, but my concern is that I'm looking forward to retire here," said Jimmy Vaughn, who was first to take to the podium. "I was born and raised in this city, went to school here, graduated here, I work here, and I want to be able to afford to retire here."
"I've heard my friends and neighbors, and this is hurting a lot of people, and I mean really, really bad," Paul Christenson said. "This comes out of our pocket and impacts how we can take care of our families, and I really want to speak out against this."
"As a family raising kids, we feel the pinch every year when we see that increase hitting," said Stacey Bailey, adding to the discourse. "I've heard a lot back, 'Well, we're not raising it, we're not raising it,' but it is… When you say, 'We didn't raise the rate,' our taxes increased, and we kind of get tired of hearing that every year… At least meet us in the middle…"
Right now, the city's proposed tax rate is three cents lower than what the tax code allows. Additionally, homeowners over 65 and those with a disability exception will not see property tax increases.
"I understand that when I get to 65 or whatever I'm supposed to get a tax break, but how high is the taxes going to be by the time I get there?" Vaughn questioned. "Am I still going to be able to afford it? Or am I going to have to sell and move elsewhere? I don't know."
"Our family has to live within a budget, and I expect my city, school and county to do the same," said Sylvia Coulson, who works as a dietician.
Not everyone, however, was against the proposal.
John Hamilton, who moved to Waxahachie some 20 years ago, has been involved in many city-planning projects and currently serves on the Ellis County Museum board of directors. From his vantage point, the proposal gets a thumbs up.
"We moved into kind of a rundown city of about 18,000 people," said Hamilton as he reflected on his early days in the small Ellis County town. "Since that time, I've been involved with downtown development, but we have benefitted largely from some of the things the city has done the last few years. We have a smooth street in front of our house and beside our house. We have sidewalks in the neighborhood now…"
"You probably noticed in the city parks the last couple of years: There are actually parks now. Before that they were grassy fields," Hamilton further explained. "That's tax dollars that pay for that. I think most of the property tax goes to pay for the police department and the fire department, at least a large portion of it does, and we need those services."
Breaking it down
"A tax increase is an increase in tax revenue, not an increase in tax rate," explained an Ellis County Tax Office employee who wished to remain anonymous. "That's why, even though the proposed rate is the same as last year's adopted rate, it's still considered a tax increase."
The proposed effective tax rate, which compares tax rates based on existing property values from the previous year, is 0.629553 cents per $100 valuation. Last year's approved rate was 0.68 cents.
"The City of Waxahachie's effective rate this year… is lower than last year's approved rate and also lower than this year's proposed rate," the tax office employee outlined. "As values increase from year to year, the effective rate would decrease because it would not take as high of a rate to collect the same amount of tax revenue on the higher values; therefore, any rate over the effective rate is considered a tax increase."
The Daily Light obtained a copy of the city's 28-page budget proposal. The document explains that this year's budget will "raise more revenue from property taxes than last year's budget by an amount of $2,253,304, which is an 11.32 percent increase from last year's budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $1,150,436."
"The 86th Texas legislature made a number of changes to the truth-in-taxation process that will go into effect next year, so this will be the last year some of this information is relevant," the tax office employee said.
Truth-in-taxation requires local taxing units to share tax rate proposals with the public, allowing them to roll back or limit tax increases.