Sunday, September 25, 2022

Davis: This is not the year to raise taxes in Denton

There’s nothing political about keeping property taxes low. It makes sense from liberal or conservative perspectives, and every viewpoint in between.

Low property taxes mean lower burdens on homeowners and business owners. They mean lower costs for landlords to pass on to tenants. And of course low taxes mean more money available to our citizens to spend in the local economy, promoting job and wage growth. Denton is also surrounded by cities with significantly lower tax rates. The more we can lower property taxes, the better our chances at attracting new businesses and new home construction.

You have probably heard me use the phrase “bank our growth” many times over the last few years. What I mean, of course, is that Denton is in a once-in-a-lifetime period of growth and economic prosperity. We must make policy choices and investments now, while we can, that put us in the best possible position when that growth inevitably slows. We must also allow our citizens to keep as much of their own money as possible, to make the same kinds of investments in their homes, businesses, and the local economy.

The City of Denton will adopt a new property tax rate in late September. If we kept exactly the same tax rate—$0.59 per $100 of property value—the city would reap many millions more from property owners than we did last year because property values have risen. The average annual tax bill would go up several hundred dollars. However, if we enacted what is known as the “No New Revenue” rate—$0.56/$100, lowered to compensate for rising values—the average tax bill would remain almost the same.

There certainly may come a time when Denton needs to raise property taxes. But it is NOT today. In the current fiscal year, sale tax revenue increased 16.4%, or more than $4.5 million. Next fiscal year we project another 5% increase. Next year Denton will also receive approximately $23 million dollars in federal funds for COVID-related projects. These include some obvious things, like testing employees and promoting the vaccine, but also long-held city priorities like our $8 million full-spectrum homeless shelter on Loop 288. The City Council has also approved a major electricity deal which will inject over $3 million into the city’s general fund in the first year alone, and increasing every year.

These diverse revenue streams will bring enough cash into the city to pay for every new staff position and every priority the City Manager has asked for—including six much-needed new positions in the Police Department. We’d even have about $2 million left over to grow the Street Improvement Fund and support the new Sustainability Fund the Council created in August.

Even so, some of my friends on the City Council seem dead set on raising your property taxes. They don’t seem willing to adopt the “No New Revenue” rate, but instead support a rate ($0.57/$100) which will put a heavier burden on every property owner in the city. This will of course raise rents for every residential or business tenant, just as they are recovering from COVID-related setbacks. My colleagues haven’t said what they intend to do with the millions of extra dollars of your money. But this year, we simply do not need it to meet the city’s goals. We have more than enough already.

Our next hearing on the budget and tax rate will be September 14th, and the final vote will be taken on September 21st. If you feel, as I do, that this is not the year to raise property taxes in Denton, please reach out to the City Council and make your voice heard.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me on these issues and any others before the Denton City Council. You can reach me by email at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll see you around town!

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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