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Will recent disasters affect Nueces County tax rates?

County commissioners to discuss 2020 tax rates
Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 03:20:55-04

Taxes are on the agenda later this week, as Nueces County Commissioners discuss a new rate for county and hospital district taxes.

Does that mean you’ll be paying more?

While the commissioners court agenda mentions a 3.5 percent hike on county and hospital district taxes, the actual new rate still is undecided.

“On Wednesday, we will make that decision on our preferred rate,” said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales.

In 2019, the state legislature passed State Bill 2, which caps increases at 3.5 percent of the effective rate, which is the the amount of money a taxing entity brought in the year before.

Despite those caps, SB 2 allowed for an 8 percent increase for disasters. Nueces County faced two disaster declarations in 2020 for COVID-19 and Hurricane Hanna. That means the county and hospital district could have hit taxpayers for 8 percent twice, but commissioners decided to follow the 3.5 percent guideline.

“They’ve lost lives, the oil industry has busted, people don’t have jobs, they’ve closed restaurants,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Carolyn Vaughn. “Now is absolutely not the time to raise anything.”

The county’s 2019 tax rate was $0.313088 per $100 of property value, while the hospital district’s was $0.112367 per $100.

Canales said those numbers may actually drop, without a drop in county services.

“I expect it will be lower than 3.5 percent, but it will allow for us to have the dollars we need to take care of you, the taxpayer, in this double-disaster year,” she said.

So how can the county lower the tax rate, provide services and pay for two disasters simultaneously?

“It’s going to be very difficult to find where we can cut,” said Vaughn.

The answer, according to Canales, lies with the appraisal district.

“If your appraisal doesn’t change, and your tax rate goes lower, then your tax rate for the county will be lower; but if your appraisal was higher, it will depend on how much higher your appraisal went,” Canales said.

After the rate is decided at Wednesday’s hearing, Canales said there will be at least one open house to discuss the new rate, though details of that open house still are pending.

According to Canales, commissioners will officially approve next year’s tax rate at the Sept. 9th commissioners court meeting.