News Column

Lubbock leaders have skin in the game as they consider property tax hike

August 23, 2014

By Stevie Poole, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas



Aug. 23--For most members of the Lubbock City Council, a vote for the proposed near-2.3-cent property tax increase is a vote for less money in their own pockets.

While the average resident will see around a $27 increase on his tax statement, city leaders will see much more -- especially Mayor Glen Robertson.

Robertson, a real estate investor outside of City Hall, owns more than $17.5 million in local property. Increasing the tax rate to 52.74 cents per $100 property valuation will cost the mayor more than $4,000 extra in city property taxes alone.

Still, Robertson has publicly advocated for the increase.

"We've heard every candidate talk about debt, infrastructure and taking care of what we've got, but I'll tell you we can't do that on current revenue," he previously said.

Some city leaders have attributed deteriorating city infrastructure in recent years in part to relatively low property tax rates in recent decades.

The property tax was 64 cents per $100 in 1992; today, that tax rate has dropped to a little more than 50 cents. The tax has steadily decreased over the past two-plus decades, reaching an all-time low of near-44 cents in 2008.

While many city leaders favor a possible increase, they each said they don't factor their personal finances in.

It's about what is best for the city, said Councilman Jim Gerlt, who will pay around $42 more a year if the property tax is raised.

As his birthday inches closer and the Over 65 tax exemption is within reach, Gerlt said it would be in his best interest to not just vote against a higher tax rate, but vote to lower taxes altogether. Residents 65 or older can qualify for additional exemption deductions and receive a tax ceiling, according to information provided by the Lubbock Central Appraisal District.

Still, Gerlt made the motion that capped a property tax increase at 52.74 cents, the rate proposed in the city staff's recommended budget.

Councilman Floyd Price, who does qualify for the Over 65 exemption, won't see a change in his property taxes next year regardless of what the council decides but notes his family will. Even if he was at an age where his pocketbook would take a hit, Price said he would still recommend a tax increase for the benefit of the city.

"The thing that people need to understand is that commodities get more expensive for the city too," he said. "City streets get torn up, they don't last forever and everything is going up. I don't understand why people don't understand that you can't keep the same tax rate that you had back in the early '50s and '60s and expect a 2014 budget to be the same."

Councilwoman Karen Gibson, the city leader looking at the second-biggest increase if the tax hike is approved, said the possible $300-plus extra doesn't factor into her decision making.

The District 5 representative's opposition to a possible increase has more to do with residents' pocketbooks than her own. With a bond election in the works and other financial burdens being calculated, Gibson said she doesn't think it is the right time to tack on another expense.

stevie.poole@lubbockonline.com

--766-8742

Follow Stevie on Twitter

5@AJ_SteviePoole

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(c)2014 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas)

Visit the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) at www.lubbockonline.com

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Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX)


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