Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley discussed the reasons leading to the arrival of the decision by Commissioners’ Court to decide on the slight tax rate increase.
“The state mandates something called the effective tax rate,” said Judge Hurley. “It’s based on overall inventory of tax valuations of all properties. And when tax valuations go up every year, the effective tax rate goes down because the effective tax rate is set so that it collects, roughly, the same amount of taxes as the year before.
“This keeps local entities from really jacking taxes up on their citizens and it’s a good law. But, when tax valuations go down and ours has gone down some $172,000,000.00 this year, not at any fault of our own, but because of the loss of the oilfield, it causes a situation that to produce the same amount of money, we’re forced into an increased tax rate. And it is not of our choosing.
“We are going to add a few more cents to help us offset the loss in sales tax revenue that we’re facing and it’s been an enormous loss in that revenue that amounts to over a million a year. So, we’re going to raise taxes above that effective tax rate a few cents and that will put the proposed tax rate at .4399 per $100 for 2016, which is still below what the tax rate was in 2012 and some 30¢ below what it was ten years ago.”
In 2006 the tax rate was .7609 per $100.
Judge Hurley said, “In discussing the amount of $172,000,000.00 that our valuations have dropped in this fiscal year that we have to calculate our property taxes from to run the government with, you know that many people’s taxes have gone up, mine have gone up, everybody’s property’s revalued, so people will wonder why and how is it possible for all of this to go down when all of our taxes and all of our valuations are going up and this is how. I’m sure that we have had a lot of increases so we had to have much more than a $170,000.000.00 loss to offset all of that.
“And I uncovered what the largest portion of that is, being the loss of a lawsuit by the Atascosa County Appraisal District to the San Miguel Plant. $157,886,134.00 was reduced from our valuation for this year. So with all of our $172,000,000.00 loss, $157,886,134.00 is because of this change by the Appraisal District losing this lawsuit with San Miguel.
“And I understand there’s still another $30,000,000.00 that’s at dispute with the Appraisal District. This information was gotten to me by Stuart Knowlton, the Appraisal District board representative for Atascosa County.
“Not only that, because of this change, Atascosa County is required to refund to San Miguel from Atascosa County’s bank coffers, $124,118.00. This is why we feel that the Appraisal District should be careful about entering into major lawsuits with our taxpayers.
“Essentially, what happens is our rate this year which is .3632 per $100.00 is actually artificially low because that tax valuation for San Miguel shouldn’t have been in it. So it was artificially lower this year and now we’re having to compensate for that next year.
“It puts it into perspective. You know it was in the valuation because San Miguel paid the county $124,118.00 in taxes that we had to refund. That means our effective tax rate was artificially reduced. We’re paying for it in next year’s rate. It is the desire of Atascosa County’s Commissioners and myself to see this rate go down when we set our budget for 2017.”