County commissioners spar over property ‘tax cut’

When is a property “tax cut” not a tax cut? When a tax rate reduction is exceeded by higher appraised values.
The Medina County Commission will consider just such a scenario Sept. 24 when it votes on a 2020 tax rate of $0.5473 per $100 value. That’s 0.8 percent less than the current rate of $0.5517.
But an 8.33 percent increase in average homestead taxable values – from $152,255 last year to $164,939 this year — more than offsets the lower tax rate.
According to unofficial figures provided by the county, the tax on an average homesteaded property would increase 7.46 percent, from $840 to $903.
Beck, for one, is not impressed. He would prefer the new rate to be $0.5138, which would keep taxes at 2019 levels.
“That’s not a tax cut. That’s smoke and mirrors,” says Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jerry Beck.
Beck was the lone dissenter on Aug. 27, when commissioners forwarded the 2020 tax package for a public hearing and final vote on Sept. 24.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre was the most vocal advocate for the plan that would set the rate at $0.5473.
“This is the biggest cut in 16 years,” he said at last week’s commission meeting in Hondo.
Using a generalized anecdote to illustrate his point, Sittre said paying $20 more in property taxes for a $20,000 increase in property value is a “no-brainer.”
“You make a lot of money on the higher appraisal. That’s a deal I will take all day long,” he said.
With new construction and higher appraised valuations, Medina County expects to receive 8.04 percent more property tax revenue under its proposed plan.
Beck told the News on Monday that the county is in “excellent financial shape” and can afford to give taxpayers a break. He noted that the county has been able to put $1 million into its reserve fund every year.
County Judge Chris Schuchart calls the proposed “tax cut” a good start, and described the county’s general fund budget as “healthy.”
Anticipating new revenue, commissioners are proposing an across-the-board 5 percent pay increase for county employees. This includes commissioners, who would get a $3,000 boost.
Commission salaries would increase from $60,363.99 to $63,382.19 while Judge Schuchart’s pay would go from $93,490.57 to $96,725.10.
“John Q. Public is not getting that kind of increase,” Beck said from his office in Devine. “Lower-paid county employees [would be] getting $500 more a year. The pay gap keeps getting wider.”
Beck, who has said he will not seek re-election after his current term expires in 2022, vows to be “more vocal” about the property tax issue at the Sept. 24 public hearing.
“This affects me too,” he said.
By Kenric Ward