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Crownover Blasts State Legislator for ‘Ignorant Rant’ About Property Taxes

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Crownover Blasts State Legislator for ‘Ignorant Rant’ About Property Taxes

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Comal County Pct. 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover at "station day' in Canyon Lake on Feb. 1.

Comal County Pct. 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover, who represents Canyon Lake, took to Facebook yesterday to blast Texas State Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican who represents the Woodlands, for accusing county commissioners of setting new property tax rates and then pointing the finger at “those pesky appraisal districts that they appoint members to.”

Crownover’s post was widely praised on social media by county homeowners, who this year were hit with double-digit increases in property values of between 30 to 50%.

Crownover said that after weeks of fielding emails, texts, phone calls and social media posts from constituents angry about “their ridiculous appraisals,” she’d had enough.

The commissioner described Toth’s post as an “ignorant rant.”

“Shame on an elected official for so boldly and blatantly spreading such lies,” Crownover said. “These misstatements directly throw Texas counties under the bus, identifying us as the culprit in the property tax, disgustingly inflated appraisals and reckless taxation problems. He also goes on to offer advice on how we, county officials, could be better stewards of taxpayer dollars.

“Well, sit down sir.”

Crownover continued:

‘Appraisal districts are a scam.’

This is something we can agree on! But my goodness, it’s ironic that the appraisal districts are established and mandated by the very legislature you serve on. They are not created by counties, and in our county they are not part of any county office.

The legislature and the state comptroller determine the rules and procedures utilized by the appraisal district. The county and other local taxing entities are prohibited by statute from even suggesting any changes. Yet we are required to fund the appraisal budget.

‘254 Texas counties spend a combined $2 billion each year funding appraisal districts.’

Because we are forced to by the legislature. That’s you. These are known as unfunded mandates.

The legislature brags about budget savings and budget cuts, but leaves out the inconvenient fact that they are merely passing the mandatory spending down to other entities to figure out how to pay for. These are referred to as unfunded mandates, a.k.a., state-mandated spending, paraded as budget savings as y’all bask in the light and take credit.

For extra fun, the legislature limits how we can generate funds to cover our budget, leaving ad valorem taxes as our only practical means of covering our budget to provide the statutorily required services for our citizens.

The taxing entities are required by the legislature to fund the appraisal district budget. In our county, we pay our portion of the operating cost of the appraisal district based on our portion of the total levy.

Our share is 17.89% of the appraisal district’s annual budget, and equates to $832,458 per year (2022 budget year).

This local property tax mandate could be avoided if the legislature provided funding for its mandated appraisals. Your idea at how to reallocate the money that ‘counties’ spend on appraisal districts is cute, but also severely uninformed.

‘Property tax relief’

Stop mandating things for us to fund with property taxes as one of the only ways to pay for them.

‘Debt reduction’

Well, that would be awesome. Our latest debt projects that we incurred debt for was the remodel and expansion of our court space for the county, which we are required to have, staff and maintain, to run courts, including district courts, which are state courts. But thanks for the advice!

‘Education’

This is the responsibility of the school districts, not counties. Oh, and by the way, the Texas Constitution, Article 7 Section 1 says that it is the responsibility of the state to educate our children, so that’s actually the legislature’s obligation. It would also help our citizens out if y’all would stop mandating that part of our ISDs’ (independent school districts) money get sent to poorer districts.

“How about y’all just subsidize them and let less burden be our folks’ shoulders, okay?

‘Securing the border’

Counties, huh? This should be the fed’s but the state is already spending $2 billion per year on this. Are you really suggesting that local property taxes be allocated to this problem? Regardless, because the border is not secure, it is costing counties egregious amounts of money, in the unfunded mandate column, for indigent care, law enforcement, jail time, indigent defense, court costs, and time.

Oh my goodness, we would love a secure border. Our residents, and the residents of counties all over our state, are sick of increased crime and drugs, and especially footing the bill for this intentional train wreck of a situation.

Legal fees

Are you serious? Our county does not voluntarily pay to fund these fights, initiated by large property owners, to reduce their appraisal. Our ‘operational funds’ mandated by the legislature to fund the appraisal district include a line item for that type of activity.

‘Texas needs to do away with this ridiculous appraisal system that sticks it to property owners.’

Great idea! Why don’t you get to work on it? You’ve been in the legislature since 2012. How many times have you proposed legislation to change this? You realize that only the legislature can change this, right?

Could it be because the legislature benefits from higher school property taxes caused by higher appraisals? For over 20 years, the legislature has reduced its responsibility for public education funding by forcing higher appraisals on property owners.

‘Budget and new property tax rate’

Yes, we’re getting ready to go through our annual budget process this summer. Because we are such an incredibly conservative and frugal county, it’s realistic that the tax rate will go down because of the inflated values. We still have to keep any effective tax rate increase under 3.5% of our tax revenue, because in the infinite wisdom of the legislature, that’s the limit we can go by regardless of inflation or any other circumstance, without triggering a mandatory election (which is another unfunded mandate, by the way).

“You bet we’ll do our best to keep it under that. Our citizens are suffering under this system, and we are cognizant of that. We live here, too. The budget process is a somber process, and there is no champagne here. Again, in this rant, you demonstrate your ignorance about the process.

‘All 254 commissioners courts will then blame those pesky appraisal districts that they appoint members to.’

This ‘vote’ to appoint members is an insult to the process. In our county, the votes are divided up by the percentages of tax levies of each taxing entity. One school district holds 52% of that. Fifty-two percent of the vote. What the hell is the point? That whole process is an insulting clown dance.

Besides, the appraisal district board is statutorily prohibited from exercising any influence over the appraisal process mandated by the legislature.

‘Go to a price-paid valuation’

My God, I think I’ve found something else I can agree with you on. Why hasn’t the legislature passed the proposed constitutional amendment to provide this protection for homeowners? Could it be because of opposition from large political contributions from business interests that benefit from the present corrupt system?

Families plan and budget for themselves and their futures. A family should not be penalized in this system because they have been responsible in their planning and budgeting in a home they plan to stay in for the rest of their lives because their neighbor doubled their money on theirs.

‘Ask your county government to withdraw from Texas Association of Counties (TAC).’

Ah, another cute bumper-ticker catchphrase to punish the messenger rather than accept responsibility for your decisions.

Give me one discipline of work that does not have a professional association? Carpenters have them. Funeral homes have them. Teachers have them. Lawyers have them. Doctors have them. Retailers have them.

As a county official, I have one, too. You know what they do for Texas counties? They conduct educational conferences for us. They are a resource for advice for us – human resources, legal advice, cyber-security training, employee benefit programs, risk management, wellness programs. And yes, they help us understand the legislature and the effects that different proposed legislation could have on our citizens, our operations, our budgets, etc.

They work hard to educate y’all, too. Lots of what y’all do starts with a good idea. The problem is that for every action, there are financial consequences, both intended and unintended.  Y’all should think through those things, but when you don’t, our good folks there try to help show you.

I bet you didn’t know that 64% of my county’s annual general fund budget goes to pay for things you have mandated that I pay for! If TAC could not exist, 254 counties would have to hire people to constantly monitor the 7,000-plus bills that are filed with each legislative session. This is both unreasonable and absurd.

Our 254 counties in Texas range from populations of 64 to 4,731,145 people, as of the 2020 census numbers, with 214 of them having populations of under 100,000, and over half of the counties in Texas have populations under 20,000. You really think each county should have their own legislative watchdog department? I’m sure TAC is a far more fiscally conservative approach, and we all get a lot more out of it than you’re willing to acknowledge, much like all the other professional associations that are apparently acceptable to you.

‘No elected or county or ISD officials should support our tax dollars working against our best interests.’

I really wish you knew what you were talking about here, but hey, it’s a cute bumper-sticker campaign slogan. In truth, county officials are the most-frugal public officers and county government is the most-efficient and most-responsive level of government.

“We consistently remind the legislature that ‘one size’ does not fit everyone, and local decision-making is the best policy to insure accountability to the taxpayers.

‘If the State of Texas held spending increases to population adjusted for inflation, the sales tax would slowly buy down our property taxes.’

As a legislator, you are responsible for the state budget. Get after it, buddy. The lieutenant governor, the speaker and every member of the legislature could get these things done and make things happen. At that point, I’m sure the governor would happily sign them into law. Our citizens deserve better from y’all. Get after it.

‘It just takes discipline.’

Again, get after it, buddy. But let’s start with disseminating facts, understanding issues, and stop throwing entities under the bus with inaccurate statements and playing on people’s lack of knowledge, emotion and even anger about this issue to make yourself look good. I think that’s called grandstanding.

With all due respect.

 

 

 

 

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1 Comments

  1. Rocky Hill April 16, 2022

    You go girl…

    Reply

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