Tarrant County’s rate is the same as last year — $0.229 per $100 value — but is actually considered a tax increase by state law because it would add $61.7 million in revenue to the county, $11 million of which is from new property added to the tax rolls.
The average homestead value in Tarrant County increased by 12 percent, from $238,312 to $267,360 from 2021 to 2022. With the same tax rate, the average homeowner will pay $66.52 more in county taxes on their coming bill.
The commissioners court also approved the county’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 operating budget, totaling over $915 million.
County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican who is retiring this year, claimed during the meeting that if the state would reimburse the county for costs it absorbs to house prisoners in the county jail that Whitley says rightly belong in state facilities, then the county could lower its tax rate.
According to documents provided to the commissioners court from the county auditor, $8.9 million was spent by the county “in the previous 12 months for the maintenance and operations cost of keeping inmates sentenced to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”
These expenses had an impact of $.000510 per $100 on the voter-approval tax rate.
Whitley has also complained about other unfunded mandates by the state such as indigent criminal defense services. In 2001, the 77th Legislature passed the Fair Defense Act that set standards for the provision of indigent defense.
“The costs of providing court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants are significant and remain a major uncontrollable expense in county budgets,” according to a Texas Association of Counties legislative brief.
For the current tax year, the county saw an increase above last year’s enhanced indigent defense compensation expenditures of $6,687,617, which increased the no-new revenue tax rate by $.000290/$100.
The county commissioners voted to approve compensation increases for elected officials. Whitley’s salary increased to $211,895 annually with an auto allowance of $16,464. However, he is not the highest-paid county elected official.
The Tarrant County District Attorney will be paid $250,333 in FY 2023, $140,000 of which is paid by the state. Sharen Wilson currently occupies the office but is retiring at the end of her term.
County Commissioner Devan Allen (D-Pct. 2) voted against the salary increase. She based her decision on the same reasons she gave during last year’s vote, including her concern about gender-based equity in county salaries, her doubt about whether all county employees are paid a living wage, and her disapproval of providing some elected officials who “are derelict in duty” with a pay increase. She did not specifically name any she believed are derelict.
Allen’s office confirmed to The Texan that she will not be accepting the pay increase of over $13,000.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.