Local officials lie about taxes, media helps

Robert Pratt photo Copyright Pratt on Texas

Robert Pratt

Lubbock County officials are liars and so are many local government elected officials. Call it a sin of omission or commission, it doesn’t matter because they know they are lying to the public through an ignorant or conspiring news media.

Take this line from a KJTV story on Lubbock County: “Meanwhile, commissioners proposed sticking with the current tax rate despite some large expenses expected this year, including new voting equipment.” Commissioner Patti Jones goes on to explain why her pet project, the elections office, needs to spend $12 million to replace working equipment.

In fact, in the example of Lubbock County it is HUGE tax increase… That keeping the tax rate the same is at minimum a 6.2 percent tax increase on homeowners.

Other media outlets including my own flagship radio station reported this line that the county is “sticking with the current tax rate” as if it’s not a tax increase. In fact, in the example of Lubbock County it is HUGE tax increase.

The Lubbock Appraisal District tells me that the average increase county-wide on residential property alone is 6.2 percent. Commercial values went up too and local government will also have a windfall of new construction revenue not on the books last year.

That keeping the tax rate the same is at minimum a 6.2 percent tax increase on homeowners. Add to that larger commercial property value increases as well as new property and you have a much bigger boost to county revenue than even 6.2 percent.

I’ve read similar “keep the tax rate the same” or “slightly” increase the tax rate over and again in most every media market in Texas. Each time, the reporters fail to ask how much more revenue this will bring in over the previous year to determine, and then tell the public, how much of a tax increase is being passed.

…reporters fail to ask how much more revenue this will bring in over the previous year to determine, and then tell the public, how much of a tax increase is being passed.

A tax rate is a percentage of something and all too often the ignorant report it as if the rate is a standalone meaningful number. The “something” is the total appraised property values in the taxing district. That number changes every year for every district, sometimes in a very large way. Thus, just reporting the rate relative to what the rate was the previous year is meaningless – completely so.

You are being lied to by your local officials* but it seems a good number of you don’t care. Shame on all in the media who allow themselves to serve as propagandists for local government.

 * Think I’m stretching? Read this story from Odessa about Ector County ISD and tell me that the IDS’s CFO isn’t making it sound as if they have not raised taxes in years and are keeping the budget “flat”. However, that tax rate they’ve kept the same is a percentage of local property values which exploded in value over the last ten years meaning the school took in much more money, year after year. These people are liars.

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