Mayor Steve Adler and eight other Texas mayors met with representatives of the state legislature Monday to discuss property tax revenue caps across Texas.
Mayors from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Arlington and Plano lined up at the Headliner’s Club to voice their concern about SB 182 and HB 365. Both bills place caps on the property taxes Texas homeowners pay.
Adler said property tax caps from the state legislature take away city governments’ ability to decide where to collect revenue, how much to collect, obliterating the control of local governments over their communities.
“It’s the ordinances that a local city adopts that reflects its values [and] is something we hope will be honored by the rest of the state,” Adler said.
The real issue of SB 182 and HB 365 is self-determination, according to Adler.
“We really only have a few ways to raise revenue in our local economy — property taxes, sales tax and fees,” Adler said. “If we are limited or capped in one area, it logically follows that we have to raise it in another area. Students could feel this pinch, even if they are not property owners.”
Adler also said the property tax caps could extend into other areas of local control that may need specific protections, such as Barton Springs Pool.
“This uniqueness of how we live in Austin should be determined at the local level,” Adler said. “Students come to UT not just for the education, but to enjoy this Austin lifestyle. The environment and creative culture are very valuable to us here, and we need to be able to govern these things in our own way.”
Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez said the state legislature needs to understand that the strong economic growth of the state comes from local government managing their cities the way they choose.
“What we need to do is make sure our hands are not tied,” Martinez said. “We know our cities, and we know our legislators have been able to experience the wonderful Texas growth that we’ve had, so we want to be able to collaborate and work in that manner. But revenue caps is not the answer. It would set us back.”
Martinez said different cities prioritize different items on their budgets. She said the Texas legislature may not take issues such as emergency preparedness into consideration.
“[In] every city in the state of Texas, you have unique services, unique reactions, also depending if you live on the gulf coast,” Martinez said. “What happens when you go through the hurricane season, and you have to respond to emergency preparedness as well? Because we’re all unique, we know how to deal with budgets that are unique to our citizens.”
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser also stressed the main idea of the day: local control.
“We came to kind of work together … to talk about how we can continue to unite,” Leeser said. “We talk together and have the same voice but understand every city has a unique need and we want to make sure we continue to have the ability to represent the people that elected us.”