Jason Corley and Chad Seay, two of Lubbock County’s commissioners, have devised a new strategy to prevent a property tax increase: playing hooky.
The pair say they managed to prevent an increase in the property tax revenue above the effective rate — the rate, adjusted for property valuation increases, that ensures the same revenue to be brought in as the year before — by doing what high school rebels have done for decades.
They campaigned on only approving effective tax rates for Lubbock County.
The effective rate (which does not include new construction or sales tax) is currently what will be adopted for the 2019 fiscal year. That number is set at $0.339978 per $100 of taxable value — down from $0.348086 per $100 of taxable value in 2018.
At the meeting on September 9, the Lubbock County Commissioners Court had the option to change it to any figure under eight percent (the current election-trigger threshold), according to Corley and Seay.
The pair said their colleagues were looking to keep the rate the same as it was in 2018, thus bringing in more revenue (i.e. increasing taxes on property owners) when the tax collectors come knocking.
Based on the Lubbock County tax assessor’s numbers, 2019’s property appraisal of taxable value rests at over $22.6 billion. If the commissioners court adopted the 2018 rate, the county’s 2019 property tax revenue would be $1.8 million higher.
At a household level, a homeowner whose property is valued at $200,000 would pay an extra $16 in property taxes.
Property valuations in Lubbock County increased 5.4 percent from 2018 to 2019.
A Facebook video shared on the Lubbock Taxpayers Coalition’s page depicts Corley and Seay discussing why they decided to skip the commissioners court meeting.
Seay states the court has been able to “cut $3 million out of the proposed budget,” while re-allocating money from unnecessary areas to necessary ones — such as the Sheriff’s department.
Corley followed by stating, “All of this hard work has produced a budget which will meet the needs of Lubbock County without raising your taxes above the effective tax rate.”
Corley then mentioned that “the other members of the commissioners court have decided that that’s not good enough.”
The pair mentions “two very powerful tools” given to them by the State of Texas: Section 81.006 requires a quorum, at least three members of the commissioners court, to vote for the tax levy.
There being only four members of the court, Corley and Seay’s absence prevents a tax increase above the effective rate.
“So, if Chad [Seay] and I don’t show up to court today and on the regularly scheduled meeting on [September 23], Lubbock County has to adopt the effective tax rate, which means your taxes don’t go up,” Corley added.
While the valuation of a property may go up, the adoption of the effective rate scales-back tax revenue to be revenue-neutral — thus resulting in no tax increase.
Seay concluded the video, saying, “Remember, taxes only go up when good conservatives do nothing.”
The next meeting is on September 23.
Corley and Seay say their plan is to skip it again if their colleagues do not agree to stick with the effective rate.
Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish, who also sits on the commissioners court, called the move “an unnecessary political stunt.”
“What happened yesterday is we were not able to adopt the effective tax rate,” Parrish added, mentioning the board had hoped to adopt both the effective tax rate and the budget that goes with it.
The agenda posted listed the effective tax rate as the planned rate to adopt.
“I can’t speak to what was going through the other commissioners minds, but that wouldn’t have mattered because with Jason [Corley], Chad [Seay], and myself, we would have been able to adopt the effective tax rate,” Parrish concluded.
Tax rates must be approved at a regularly scheduled meeting, and if no rate is approved at the September 23 meeting, the effective rate will be adopted.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version to include comments from Judge Parrish.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.