BELTON — Bell County commissioners on Monday reaffirmed the schedule for upcoming hearings on the county’s proposed property tax rate of 45.11 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
The commissioners will hold hearings at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the rate, with both hearings being treated as two parts of a single hearing.
The second hearing for the proposed tax rate is at 9 a.m. Monday, which also will be the first hearing for this year’s proposed budget. Both the budget and the tax rate are scheduled to be adopted at a meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 25.
While the county’s proposed rate would remain the same as last year’s tax rate, it is still slightly higher than the county’s effective tax rate of 44.78 cents per $100 of valuation, which would generate the same amount of revenue as last year’s $79 million budget.
So far, there haven’t been any comments or complaints about the proposed rate, Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Cortese said.
“I haven’t received a phone call or an email,” Cortese said, adding that the lack of communication regarding property taxes is “pretty normal.”
“We’ll get people to come out if there’s a disputed election and someone makes a comment,” Cortese said. “The real problem is that it’s confusing for people to understand what’s going on with the money.”
The state-mandated language in the recent public notice that ran in newspapers throughout the county “doesn’t explain what’s going on very well,” Cortese said. The mandatory time frame for tax rates and budgets doesn’t help either, he added.
Of the proposed 45.11 cents per $100 assessed valuation, 33 cents will be spent on county maintenance and operations, 9.12 cents on servicing county debt and 2.99 cents will go to the road and bridge fund.
Bell County’s tax-supported debt totals about $122 million, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The per capita cost of the debt for each of the county’s estimated 327,000 residents is $373 per year.
The county’s property tax rate may not increase this year, but the amount of property value being taxed has increased. The value of the more than 160,000 taxable properties on Bell County’s tax rolls went up by 4.93 percent this year, said Marvin Hahn, chief appraiser for the Bell County Central Appraisal District.
A large portion of the increase can be attributed to construction throughout the county, which adds value to property and increases property tax revenue, Steve Neimar, Bell County’s certified public accountant, said in April.
Bell County’s property tax revenue has grown $21.1 million since 2004, according to Neimar.
Last year alone, property tax revenue added $54 million to the county’s fund balance, County Treasurer Charles Jones said in January.
County residents paid about $30 million in property taxes in November 2013 alone, according to a quarterly report from the Bell County treasurer.
Some local grassroots activists are not pleased with the way the county assesses value. Members of the Central Texas Tea Party plan to attend this week’s hearings to protest their property tax bill, the group’s President John Coleman said.
“We’ll have about eight to 10 people there. We kind of are not happy with the property taxes,” he added. “The commissioners say the rate isn’t going up, but I can show them my bill and my taxes have gone up substantially.”
Coleman, like other tax reform advocates, questions how the appraisal district arrives at the assessed value of his home.
“Their idea of value is different than my idea of value,” Coleman said. “They say my house is worth something, but if I try to sell it for that amount there’s no way anyone would buy it for that price.”