Wichita Falls journalist gets effective rate vs. tax rate right

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Robert Pratt

It is a delight to find a journalist, especially for a local newspaper, who understands the property tax system and doesn’t allow local politicians to mislead the public into thinking they are not raising taxes. These journalists are sadly rare and thus most Texans are mislead year after year by officials and media telling them the local county, city or school tax rate didn’t change when in reality a tax increase was adopted.

I recently bragged on the Breckenridge American‘s Tony Pilkington for expressing clearly what an “effective tax” rate is and how keeping a tax rate the same is meaningful only when comparing the rate to the appraised value of property which changes each year. KCBD’s Scott Mann got it right too in a story on Lubbock County’s proposed tax increase.

Now I’ve another journalist to acclaim as a professional: Claire Kowalick at the Wichita Falls Times Record News. Clair reported clearly: “Due to changes in the effective tax rate, the Wichita Falls City Council will be considering a resolution Tuesday to express the intent to place consideration of the property tax rate on a future council agenda.

“When a city is considering adoption of a tax rate that will generate additional revenue from the previous year, it must express intent to place the item on the agenda and schedule two public hearings about the issue, with notices published in the newspaper.

“The current city property tax is $0.70 per $100 of assessed value. An increase in the property tax base caused the effective tax rate, the rate at which the city generates the same tax revenue as the previous year, to decrease to $0.69. City staff recommends keeping the property tax rate the same at $0.70, but council could also consider an increase in the tax rate anywhere from $0.69 up to the rollback rate at $0.76,” Clair reported in the TRN.

Most papers would report simply that officials were leaving the tax rate the same, passing along the intended implication that taxes are not going up when they are.

Great work Claire Kowalick.

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