Commissioners approve maximum tax rate

Brewster County courthouse

Brewster County Commissioner’s held their regularly scheduled meeting on July 8, and raising property taxes was the main topic of discussion.

County Auditor Patty Roach discussed Texas Senate Bill 2, also known as the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019. Roach asked commissioners to consider approving an order directing that the voter-approval tax rate be calculated at 8% in a manner provided for a special taxing unit.

SB2 reformed property taxation by lowering the rate a taxing unit can adopt without voter approval, and requiring a mandatory election to go above that rate. The rollback rate, currently set at 8%, is the maximum rate above the effective tax rate allowed by law before voters must weigh in.

Roach said commissioners received a report from Jim Allison, general counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, stating that SB2 is effective this year, and one of the provisions was to change the rollback rate from 8% to 3.5%. However, the bill provides that if a county were in a declared disaster area, it could choose to calculate the tax rate like a special taxing unit, which is currently set at 8%.

Roach added, “You cannot go over the rollback rate without an election, but it gives you that flexibility rather than being limited to 3.5 % that SB2 was putting in place, because all the counties in Texas have been declared a disaster area.”

Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the order, with only Commissioner, Pct. 1, Betse Esparza voting no.

Roach said County Tax Assessor-Collector Betty Jo Rooney would be notified so she could calculate the rate as a special taxing unit as opposed to the county calculation.

In other business, County Treasurer Julie Morton announced that the county received the 2020 Payment in Lieu of Taxes from the U.S. Department of the Interior in the amount of approximately $1.3 million, $26,500 more than what the county had allocated in its 2020 budget. Commissioners then approved allocating the PILT funds to San Vicente ISD at 10%, and Terlingua CSD at 5%.

According to Morton, the allocations and percentages to the two school districts were based on the amount of land in each. Roach will also have some budget amendments to formally address the PILT funds.

Finally, Emergency Management Coordinator Stephanie Elmore announced that the county is still under a burn ban due to drought conditions and the burn ban would be renewed at the next commissioner’s court meeting set on Wednesday, July 22. The next regularly scheduled commissioner’s court meeting is set for Wednesday, July 22 at 9:30 am via Facebook Live.

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