A penny and a half increase would result in a 47-cent rate, making it the highest tax rate in at least the last 5 years, possibly the highest ever
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Editor's Note: And don't forget, next Tuesday's commissioners court business also includes a final vote (we're told) on the county's proposed updated development and subdivision regulations. You can go the county's website for all the latest & revised regulation documents.
By Bob Ochoa
Taxpayers, next Tuesday Aug. 18 is D-Day, or better said, County Tax Day. Following their regularly scheduled meeting, our county judge and commissioners will "declare" the tax rate for the new fiscal year 2010 budget, and schedule public hearings.
Declaring the tax rate won't be the end of the process. Commissioners will only be setting a proposed rate, which can be lowered but not raised at a final vote in September which will set the tax rate in stone for one year.
But Tuesday's vote won't make it any less of a sweat for commissioners court members. They will have to declare their intentions – and therefore much will be revealed about their character. They will either support a raise in the tax rate because of the debt being incurred by the 2008 Road Bonds, or refuse to vote for an increase and be a hero back home with the anti-tax crowd.
The RoundUp remembers that the two most visible promoters of the road bonds were Commissioners Conley (R) of Wimberley and Barton (D) of Kyle/Buda. They even posed for pictures with supporters. The big question is, will they cut n' run when the going gets tough on Tuesday?
"There's $50 million to $60 million (in debt, mostly road bonds)" coming up, a county official shared with the RoundUp. "The truth is the voters voted for it . . . there was information on a tax increase in the promotional materials."
Even while the court is said to be working hard to "hold the line on no new positions and no (pay) raises," we taxpayers likely will end up "with a penny or a penny and a half" hike in the property tax rate. The current rate is 45.5 cents on the hundred of assessed value. A penny and a half increase would result in a 47-cent rate, making it the highest rate in at least the last 5 years, possibly the highest ever (we'll check on that). We can only imagine the headlines: "Commissioners court approves highest tax rate ever . . . but Commissioner(s) (blank) say no to more taxes."
County Auditor Bill Herzog helped clarify what the proposed new tax rate will actually pay for: $10 million in "priority (road bond) roads," $50 million for "pass through" road bond projects, and an $8 million certificate of obligation for Dacy Lane reconstruction behind the new Seton Hospital complex near Kyle on I-35. The road bonds are supposed to be underwritten next week and sold in the marketplace.
"We're about to get into the heavy stuff (in county expenditures)," Herzog said.
Spending for a new county office complex and expansion of the county jail are not in the proposed 2010 budget, nor is the remaining nearly $140 million in road bond work (plus millions more in debt interest). So it's not hard to figure out where our county taxes will be going in the outlying years – up, up and away! Are you having fun, yet?
Ford working on rainwater collection incentives
We would like to take a moment to extend a hat tip to Pct. 4 County Commissioner Karen Ford for boldly going where other members of the court have dared not go. Mrs. Ford organized a volunteer "water conservation working group" earlier this year that is looking into providing additional incentives for Hays County residents and builders to install rainwater collection systems.
It's not an easy thing to do, considering the many mortgage finance requirements relating to home water supply and state law NOT allowing counties to provide certain kinds of assistance. (Can you imagine what would happen if lenders started to question groundwater in our parts as a "reliable, continuous" water supply?) A bill introduced in the last legislative session by State Rep. Patrick Rose would have helped, but alas, the bill went nowhere.
"We've got a survey going with lenders to ask about policies and procedures and their attitudes on rainwater collection," Ford told the RoundUp. "We're kind of working quietly right now and on ways that we (county) can provide incentives."
Thanks Commissioner Ford.
From one commenter: Most lenders can't underwrite a deal like that due to the insurance companies not wanting to insure the structure, since they think if a fire occurs, and the tanks are low, not enough water would be available to put out the fire.
It is gonna boil down to insurance company policies. The lender doesn't care if the house burns to the ground, because they are the first to be paid off. They just don't want the liability for financing a home without sufficient water available (according to what they believe currently). I bet its going to be the insurance underwriters who determine if it ever gets done, not the wholesale lenders. If the insurance binder covers them for the loan balance, they don't care one way or the other.