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Hello ?! Tax Bills Are NOT Going Up

Homeowners. Your county and school tax bills are not going up this year.
While the wording in advertisements run in last week’s issue of the Ledger made it sound like homeowner tax bills will go up, that’s not true.
The wording was unfortunate but state regulations require that wording be used no matter how confusing it is. The fault for the misleading information lies not with the County Commission nor with the Board of Education. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of state government.
In the advertisements, the required headline read, “Press release announcing a proposed property tax increase.”
In the first paragraph, it is stated that the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education intend “to increase property taxes it will levy this year by 0.95 percent county wide over the rollback millage rate.”
The key wording in that statement is “over the ROLLBACK millage rate.”
Actually, the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education intend to NOT “increase property taxes it will levy this year” over LAST YEAR’S millage rate.
They intend to levy the same millage rate this year as they did last year.
That means that homeowners’ tax bills this year will be the same as last year —— unless the value of their property increased in the last year.
The confusion can, perhaps, be cleared up by considering the fact that the multi-million dollar Silicon Ranch solar power projects in Jeff Davis County are increasing in value. When local Industrial Development Authority officials were negotiating with Silicon Ranch to build the solar projects in the county, the county and school board agreed to give the company a graduated tax break, keeping its property value artificially low in the first few years and gradually increasing that value until the projects eventually reach 100% of their fair market value.
Between last year and this year, that value increased and, therefore, Silicon Ranch this year will pay much more in property taxes than it did last year. As a result, the county and school board will receive more property tax proceeds than they did last year while levying the same millage rate, which means there is a tax increase.
State regulations require that, if that happens, the Board of Tax Assessors is required to compute a “rollback millage rate” that would produce the same property tax revenue this year as it did last year.
As was pointed out in the County Commission’s advertisements in the Ledger last week, the increase in property taxes of 0.95%, results “in a millage rate of 15.38, an increase of 0.145 mills.” However, the state-mandated wording of the advertisement does not clarify that the 0.145 mill increase is not an increase over last year’s millage rate but, rather, it is an increase over the computed ROLLBACK millage rate.
The advertisement goes on to say that the “proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $100,000.00 is approximately $5.80 and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $250,00.00 is approximately $14.50.”
Again, the state-mandated wording does not clarify that those increases are over the property tax that would be received through the ROLLBACK millage rate, not last year’s millage rate.
Similar advertisements were placed by the Board of Education with a 0.96% increase in property taxes over the rollback rate and a millage rate of 14.00 mills, an increase of 0.133 mills over the rollback rate, and increases in tax bills of $5.32 and $13.30.
Both the County Commission and the Board of Education are facing rising costs for operating their respective governments. So they decided to keep their millage rates the same this year, which will generate additional revenue while not increasing the property taxes homeowners must pay.
Not only did the state-mandated wording in the advertisements result in confusion among the public, some people turned to social media to compound that confusion by posting uninformed statements that served only to make things worse.

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