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rwalcik

One size does not fit all. A combination of options 1, 2 and 4 would probably be most efficient without burdening the taxpayer with additional taxes and fees.

Scot

Only the Killeen and Bell County leadership can start a necessary political dialogue on the current 100% Disabled Veterans property tax exemption.

It is not going to start anywhere else for two reasons. First, other regions just are not affected like we are so there is no impending fiscal crisis that will cause its political leaders to step onto the 3rd rail of politics. Secondly, no other locality has the first-hand experience with the topic; others might have anecdotal experience, possibly on a first-name basis with their few 100% disabled Vets, but they don’t have what this area has: a density of disabled Veterans that allows it to be a data-driven basis for review of the entire property tax exemption code.

Only in the hometowns of Fort Hood will one see the numbers of Veterans who have service-connected disabilities. And with that density is coming an ever-increasing budget gap caused by the 100% Disabled Veteran property tax exemption.

But the dialogue, the political opening, never starts until local leaders stop pleading for state reimbursement of 30 cents on the dollar for reimbursement, to a more full-throated discussion that starts with, “is this tax code the right solution for the problem we thought we were solving.”

It is time to recognize that more state money is not coming. Rep Buckley’s introduced bill, HB634 made it to Appropriations where the bill financial analysis was, “No significant financial implication to the state is anticipated.” Why no cost? Because the $3.25M the state allocated to this program will simply be spread to more recipients. But Rep Buckley carried this much further than Senator Buckingham, as her companion bill went to the Finance committee and died – does not appear this was a priority for her…or Central Texas.

So this puts us at a critical crossroads and that is to ask, “is this exemption right for the truly disabled and right for our communities?”

So here is the KDH Editor, proclaiming the exemption is “well-deserved.” Those same words have been voiced by city managers, council members, county commissioners across our communities.

“Well deserved.” What is the problem we are solving with ever-larger shared tax burden across the rest of the populace? Is it under-compensation by the Federal government for disability? Is it because these full disabled cannot gain meaningful employment? What is the hardship that we are trying to address?

In the interest of succinctness, I’ll try to boil this down to three areas where local leaders can kickstart the dialogue for the next legislative session two years from now.

1. What gap or shortfall in Federal disability compensation are we trying to address ?

2. What tax appraisal district actions can we take to ensure the exemption is given only to those whose homestead is claimed, and to ensure that temporary 100% ratings (i.e., those not “permanent and total”) are not inadvertently left on the books with full exemptions in perpetuity?

3. Should a person, who is “following a substantially gainful occupation”, receive this state exemption?

The profile in courage moment has arrived. More state funding for this is not coming. Tax appraisal “season” will turn to tax rate-setting season by the local leaders who have, to date, been claiming the exemption is “well-deserved” while hoping that the state will provide more.

Welcome to the discussion.

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