Pa­trick says that cities are ru­in­ing Amer­ica. Come see Ge­orge­town.

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

Many peo­ple liken Ge­orge­town to the town of May­berry from “The Andy Grif­fith Show.” Some even say we’re home to the “Most Beau­ti­ful Town Square in Texas.” I doubt when folks stand in down­town Ge­orge­town they say to them­selves, “You know what? This is what’s wrong with our coun­try.”

That’s why I take great of­fense to Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick blam­ing cities for “all our prob­lems in Amer­ica.” For many years, the city of Ge­orge­town has been rec­og­nized as one of the fastest-grow­ing cities in United States. We are peren­ni­ally ranked as one of the top places to re­tire in the coun­try. We are re­peat­edly awarded for our out­stand­ing fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and in­no­va­tive gov­er­nance. Peo­ple who choose to live in Ge­orge­town ex­pect this trend to con­tinue.

Eight in 10 of our res­i­dents be­lieve they re­ceived good value for their city taxes. A 2016 res­i­dent sur­vey con­ducted by Texas State Univer­sity showed that al­most 80 per­cent of Ge­orge­town res­i­dents be­lieve the value for their city taxes paid is ei­ther “good” or “ex­cel­lent.”

Sev­eral items that the Texas Leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing dur­ing the spe­cial ses­sion could se­verely limit Ge­orge­town’s abil­ity to main­tain our stan­dards of safety, re­spond to in­creas­ing de­mands on our re­sources, and proac­tively en­cour­age qual­ity de­vel­op­ment.

This so-called prop­erty tax re­form leg­is­la­tion mak­ing its way through the Capi­tol would have not saved Ge­orge­town tax­pay­ers a dime on their city taxes in fis­cal year 2018. More­over, the House spon­sor of the prop­erty tax re­form bill has said him­self that the bill of­fers no real tax re­lief. What it would do is cur­tail our abil­ity to re­spond to con­tin­ued hy­per­growth in the fu­ture.

Any par­ti­san gains won by pass­ing this leg­is­la­tion will be over­shad­owed when school dis­tricts need to in­crease their tax rates to cover for dwin­dling state sup­port in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. For fis­cal year 2018, the owner of a home with an av­er­age value in Ge­orge­town — $266,598 — will see school district taxes in­crease by $187. Ge­orge­town ISD ex­pects to re­mit $9.5 mil­lion to the state. This is a $6 mil­lion in­crease from 2017 — or an in­crease of $175 on the av­er­age home­owner’s tax bill.

In other words, of the al­most $200 in­crease in taxes the av­er­age home­owner will pay in school taxes, less than $13 will stay in Ge­orge­town to fund lo­cal schools. Fur­ther­more, “Robin Hood” pay­ments are ex­pected to jump to al­most $14 mil­lion in 2019.

For true prop­erty tax re­form to oc­cur, the state needs to ad­dress its own fi­nan­cial prob­lems be­fore turn­ing cities into po­lit­i­cal scape­goats. While cer­tain state leg­is­la­tors cry that “lo­cal con­trol is out of con­trol,” their own state bud­get reads: “Prop­erty val­ues, and the es­ti­mates of lo­cal tax col­lec­tions on which they are based, shall be in­creased by 7.04 per­cent for tax year 2017 and by 6.77 per­cent for tax year 2018.”

In other words, the state is man­dat­ing school prop­erty taxes in­crease over 13 per­cent in two years!

Be warned that half-baked changes to state law re­gard­ing an­nex­a­tion and per­mit­ting would greatly im­pact Ge­orge­town’s abil­ity to fos­ter well-man­aged eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and land use. Leg­is­la­tion that would al­low un­in­cor­po­rated sub­di­vi­sions to veto an­nex­a­tion plans would ef­fec­tively freeze the cur­rent city bound­aries and would give our city great pause when con­sid­er­ing fu­ture de­vel­op­ments.

This leg­is­la­tion would hurt our abil­ity to man­age growth. It would cre­ate in­ef­fi­ciency and in­equity in tax­a­tion, force the city to make poor plan­ning de­ci­sions, and pro­duce in­con­sis­tent, non-sequitur in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment.

Any claims that cities have re­stricted eco­nomic growth through ex­ert­ing long-stand­ing lo­cal con­trol au­thor­ity run con­trary to the eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors that show Ge­orge­town is boom­ing.

Please join me in ask­ing Gov. Greg Ab­bott and Pa­trick to “stay in their lane.” What’s that old say­ing about glass houses?

On Nov. 22, 1787, James Madi­son of­fered the fol­low­ing def­i­ni­tion of a po­lit­i­cal fac­tion: “A num­ber of cit­i­zens, whether amount­ing to a mi­nor­ity or a ma­jor­ity of the whole, who are united and ac­tu­ated by some com­mon im­pulse of pas­sion, or

A guest com­men­tary pub­lished Aug. 10 gave an in­cor­rect ti­tle for the au­thor. Delisa Bressler is a part­ner at Fos­ter LLP.


Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Chair Larry Taylor dis­cusses the ed­u­ca­tion bill on the Se­nate floor. He re­jected the $1.8 bil­lion House pro­posal as a fix for fi­nanc­ing pub­lic schools.


Peo­ple gather in Ge­orge­town’s main square. For true prop­erty tax re­form to oc­cur, the state must first ad­dress its own fi­nan­cial prob­lems, writes Ge­orge­town Mayor Dale Ross.

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