This week, I received my annual notice of appraised value on my house with the list of estimated taxes I will owe later this year to various local governmental entities in Travis County, including Austin ISD, which will account for a little more than half of the tab.
The notice also includes the annual disclaimer: “The Texas Legislature does not set the amount of your local taxes. Your property tax burden is decided by your locally elected officials, and all inquiries concerning your taxes should be directed to those officials.”
The appraisal office was required by the Legislature (some years ago) to include that language on the notice. The Legislature loves to pass the responsibility and the blame as much as it can for anything that voters may consider distasteful. This is the same kind of dodge that prompted Gov. Perry to proclaim earlier this year that he and the Legislature weren’t firing any school teachers, even though they were very busy (and still are) slashing the public education budget.
In truth, of course, much of the local government tax burden is the direct or indirect result of laws enacted by the Legislature and the Legislature’s budgetsetting policies. Some of the laws – including quality educational standards that some legislators now want to repeal – are very good, while others may be debatable.
But the point is local governments – including school districts – are largely captives of state government, and the size of your local property tax bill largely reflects legislative policy, despite the state’s “don’tblameus” disclaimer.
And, as the state “leadership” (if you want to call it that) persists in filling a huge budget hole with major cuts to education, health care and other public services, those local taxes – for everything from county emergency medical care to keeping schools open are going to continue to rise.
Meanwhile, the governor and his legislative allies will continue to brag about “holding the line” on taxes.
What’s worse, some people actually will believe them.