‘I was surprised’: Houston-area homeowners react to new property tax-cut law

HOUSTON – Texas lawmakers passed and voters approved several property tax bills last year. Those bills will be due at the end of the month, and it will save some hundreds of dollars.

The $18 billion Property Tax Relief Act allows homeowners and businesses to cut school districts’ tax rates and enact other tax changes.

The entire property tax-cut package is $18 billion altogether but it includes $5.3 billion in cuts lawmakers approved in prior years. The state will send $12.7 billion to school districts so they can pay for new cuts to their property tax collections, which make up the bulk of landowners’ property tax bills. Of that, $5.6 billion will go toward more than doubling Texas’ main tax break for homeowners — the state’s homestead exemption on school district taxes, or the chunk of a home’s value that can’t be taxed to pay for public schools. The constitutional amendment would raise the exemption from $40,000 to $100,000.

“We’re hearing more positive things,” said Laura Aranda, Communication Director for the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office. “There was a school district tax reduction for instance in HISD if you live in the city of Houston and you pay HISD taxes, you will notice that HISD last year you were paying $1.03, this year it is now .87 cents so that’s a considerable reduction in HISD school tax.”

Houston homeowner and parent Hilda Lira said she was caught off guard when she received her tax bill.

“I was surprised,” Lira said. “I mean usually we’re paying like seems outrageous sometimes. We’re a middle-class family, but it came a great difference this year.”

However, another homeowner told KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun his bill went up.

“I haven’t seen any reduction,” said DonPaul Stephens. “The degree they reassess the property values and how they increase the rates for the other services. I’m not sure that we’re getting substantially more value for our tax dollars. I’m sure I’m not unique in that.”

Stephens said the property of his home went up.

But Aranda, with Harris County Tax Assessor’s Office, said Stephens likely did see some savings.

“What happens in those situations is their property values just increased to a certain amount to where they do not see a saving,” Aranda said. “However, we remind them they would have been paying more under the old rules, the old exemptions. So, you are seeing a savings it’s just not as dramatic as perhaps you want it to be.”

SENATOR PAUL BETTENCOURT ON HOW TO LOOK UP PROPERTY RELIEF

KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun interviewed state Senator Paul Bettencourt, who wrote the bill, and asked him how people can calculate the property relief difference.

“If you take the tax bill and basically flip it over you can see last year’s amount that you paid and this year. And you’ll see an increase of the homestead exemption,” Bettencourt said. “The easiest way to do is check your tax bill and by the way if you got any questions my office would be happy to help.”

SENATOR PAUL BETTENCOURT ON HOW LONG THE RELIEF WILL LAST

Balogun interviewed state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who wrote the bill, and asked him how long homeowners can expect the school property tax reduction.

“The beauty of this is that the public vote in November of 83+, which is a great vote, also set up a fund that would basically allow this to be funded into the future. The homestead exemption is enshrined into the constitution unless we have a real monetary problem then they should see this same level of tax relief year after year,” Bettencourt said. “The homestead exemption is enshrined into the constitution and unless we have a real monetary problem then they should see this same level of tax relief year after year.”

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