Harris County Commissioners Vote to Take No Action on Raising Taxes at This Time
This morning in a special meeting, Harris County Commissioners debated whether to raise taxes BEFORE they had a certified appraisal from the Harris County Appraisal District.
They chose to take no action for the time being.
Request by Budget Director
The first agenda item said, “Request by Budget Management for discussion and determination if the Court would like (1) to proceed with initial consideration of proposed property tax rates based on the July 24th Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) estimate or (2) to take no action and wait to propose rates based on the Certified Appraisal Roll expected from HCAD in late August.
Commissioners Chose Option 2
The commissioners chose option 2, i.e., to take no action. Much of the debate had to do with accuracy. The budget director outlined several different scenarios that called for different levels of tax increases. One even was based on holding the tax rate constant.
But at least one scenario called for a tax increase that would have required voter approval in November. Getting the increase on the ballot, however, would have required making a decision before August 18 and the completion of the certified appraisal.
The agenda item refers to “late August” for the completion of the certified appraisal. Those concerned about a potential tax increase should watch the calendar for the Harris County Commissioners Court.
Commissioners have scheduled two more meetings for August on the 11th and 25th.
Debate Focused on Economic Hardship
A portion of the debate and one call-in comment focused on the economic hardships that people are laboring under right now. The owner of a Chinese restaurant downtown said that her business was only 30% of the normal level. She and her family have been in business for more than 50 years. She said that they might not even be able to make their current tax payments and also said that she could not handle an increase.
This argument set the tone for the discussion. Several commissioners frequently eat at the restaurant.
At the end of the day, the commissioners voted not to take any action until they knew exactly what the tax base was. They feared raising the taxes too much or too little.
The County has not yet published the different budget scenarios considered in the meeting.
County Will Fight to Include Non-Citizens in Population Counts
The second agenda item stated: “Request by the County Attorney for authorization to file on behalf of the County friend of the court briefs and join in existing/future litigation that challenges federal efforts to exclude non-citizens in population counts when legislative boundaries are redrawn and to further authorize the County Attorney to engage Special Counsel at no cost to the County.”
A majority of the Court voted to approve this. It means the county will fight to include non-citizens in official census counts. That means, when legislative districts are redrawn (which they are after every census), Texas could wind up with more representatives in Congress rather than less. It also means that the composition of the congressional delegation could shift.
Uncertainty Surrounds Estimates of Non-Citizens
No one knows with certainty at this instant how many non-citizens live in Harris County.
The US Census Bureau estimates that 26.1% of the population is foreign born, but makes no estimate of how many foreign-born residents have attained citizenship.
A group called the Migration Policy Institute estimates that 412,000 people in Harris County are unauthorized.
Congressional Districts currently average approximately 711,000 people.
So if the Migration Policy Institute estimate is correct, AND if Harris County is successful, the inclusion of non-citizens won’t be enough to create a new district. However, it will shift some boundaries.
The Texas Secretary of State estimates that as many as 100,000 residents statewide many not have attained citizenship. However, officials are skeptical of the estimates. They are based on the number of people who did not have citizenship when they applied for drivers’ licenses. Many may have attained citizenship after applying for the licenses.
So no one really knows at this point how the inclusion of non-citizens could affect congressional boundaries.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/6/2020
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