To the Editor:

It is disgraceful that Harker Heights Council members who are fully exempt from property taxation are voting to raise others’ taxes while the city has so much in excess reserves.

Our city will again raise property taxes beyond the rate of growth and inflation. This year should have been different because the city received over $9M in federal money. Some of that will be smartly used to fund water-related capital projects and other eligible purchases.

Using these grants relieves pressure on the General Fund that is mostly funded by property taxes so one would think the ability to pass on corresponding property tax relief would be a goal. Especially in a city where 27% of our residential tax base is fully exempt from taxation, causing tax-paying neighbors to annually pick up the gap in the form of higher tax rates.

With more reserves than ever, why wouldn’t taxes be lowered to the No-New-Revenue rate like Bell County and Central Texas College did?

The $3.5M+ remaining of the federal money put into a newly established Coronavirus reserve fund along with other reserves puts us at over $15M in unallocated reserves. The city policy says it should keep $5.6M.

One would think property tax-exempt city council members would almost be embarrassed to force higher taxes upon their tax-paying neighbors with nearly $10M of unallocated funding available to the city.

With all this excess money, one can only surmise that the need to raise taxes to the maximum is to preserve the narrative that without state relief for the 100% DV exemption, this city is hurting for money.

Nothing could be further from the truth as Harker Heights taxpayers have paid higher taxes in the past — nearly 14 cents of extra tax rate last year by the city’s own calculations — to cover the non-taxed residents. Now taxpayers will pay even more, even if they didn’t need to.

If our council members exercised leadership on an issue that adversely affects city residents and acknowledged that eligibility criteria for the 100% tax exemption needs review, as Texas did when it revised DV license plate parking in mobility impaired parking spots, then perhaps their self-serving position of voting for others to pay what they do not might be pardoned. But all we get is silence and further tax increases, without one bit of explanation as to why the maximum year over year increases are necessary.

This is why if Rep. Brad Buckley ever secures 100% DV relief for Harker Heights, it must come with direct benefit for homeowning taxpayers and not as a further spending windfall for the city because like this $9M of federal grants demonstrated, the city seems to never have enough to reduce taxes on those that pay.

Howard Arey

Harker Heights

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