|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
County values climb by $30 million in 2011
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – A major increase in property values during 2011 probably will spell a cut in the county’s tax rate, Trinity County commissioners learned during their budget workshop on Monday, Aug. 8. Susan McKinley, chief appraiser for the Trinity County Appraisal District, told commissioners they could expect a $30 million increase in the taxable value of property this year. She noted that while there are still some protests of the new values working their way through the system, when the process is completed, she believes the increase will still be in the $30 range. With their county’s current tax rate of 65 cents per $100 in assessed value, the increase in tax value could translate to $195,000 in additional tax income next year. However, under Texas’ Truth in Taxation Act, the higher values may not translate into a windfall in additional tax income. McKinley explained that under the law, she is required to calculate an “effective tax rate” for the coming year, which is basically the tax rate the county would need in order to collect the same amount of revenue as it did during the current tax year. The effective rate is the starting point in terms of determining if a taxing entity such as the county is increasing or decreasing taxes. She noted if the county approves a rate more than 8 percent higher than the effective rate, the new rate can be challenged by local voters with a rollback election. The chief appraiser said she will be able to calculate the county’s effective rate as well as its “rollback rate” this week after she obtains some additional information from the county’s tax office, but noted the rollback rate this year would almost certainly be below the 65-cent rate now charged by the county. “This is the largest increase in values that I’ve every seen,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham. “It would be nice if we could see a big increase in tax revenue but with the way the economy is, I don’t think we can do it.” Worsham noted that when the county increased the tax rate from 62 to 65 cents last year, it exceeded the rollback level and he wasn’t sure they should do that two years in a row. In her report, McKinley explained that the $30 million increase came primarily through a reappraisal of all of the property in the Apple Springs and Centerville school districts as well as part of the property in the Groveton school district. She noted her office completed a reappraisal of the Trinity school district last year and plans to complete the Groveton district during the coming year. “We did the Trinity district first because that is where the state said we had the biggest problem,” she told the commissioners, adding that it had been several years since a complete reappraisal had been done in other parts of the county. In response to questions from commissioners, McKinley noted that there were some properties – particularly lakefront lots with nice homes – that had their values increase by as much as 150 percent during the reappraisal process. “Under state law, if values go up by150 percent, we can only increase them by 10 percent per year for tax purposes. But we can continue to increase them 10 percent for several years until we get to the 150 percent mark,” she said. During Monday’s budget workshop, the commissioners received the written funding requests from the various county departments and will be reviewing them during the coming week. The county’s new budget year begins Oct. 1 and another workshop has been planned for Monday, Aug. 15, Worsham noted that one of his priorities for this year’s budget is to find a way to end the yearly cycle of having to borrow money each August and September to meet the county’s bills. This problem has been occurring over the past several years and has grown to the point that last year, the county had to take out about $500,000 in short term loans in order to meet payroll and other expenses at the end of its fiscal year. During Monday’s regular meeting, the commissioners authorized Treasurer Jo Bitner-Bartee to borrow $150,000 to meet the county’s August obligations. She told commissioners they would probably have to borrow additional funds in September but was unsure how much money would be needed. Pct. 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin agreed that this is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. Noting the recent problems in Washington D.C., he joked about the pending battle over the county’s “debt ceiling.” Worsham noted last year they created an $117,000 reserve fund in the 2011 budget in order to offset the end-of-year shortfall. He indicated that seems to have begun to work because the amount the county will probably borrow this year will probably fall short of the $500,000 needed at the end of the 2010 budget.