Dallas, Fort Worth Mayors Hit on Local Control, Property Taxes in Face-To-Face with Gov. Abbott
AUSTIN — Mayor Mike Rawlings said he made clear in his Wednesday meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott that cities like Dallas are the engine fueling Texas’ economic miracle, and the governor’s attempts to curb local authority could slow the pace of growth to a crawl.
“The Dallas miracle is amazing,” he said. “We do not want to slow that up. We’ve got to be very careful.”
Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price met with Abbott after they and 16 other mayors sent Abbott a letter expressing concern over the items he added to the special session agenda that would eliminate city and county authority over a number of policies, ranging from local tree regulations and cellphone prohibitions to homeowners’ property taxes. Local officials have described the measures as an assault on local control, and they have lined up against them during the recent weeks of hearings at the Capitol.
The Dallas Morning News
Abbott had initially agreed to meet with only several smaller city mayors and did not schedule meetings with the leaders of the state’s largest cities. Last week, Abbott agreed to meet with Rawlings and Price.
The mayors said Abbott listened to their concerns about his proposal to decrease the so-called rollback rate, the tax rate at which cities must seek voter approval for an increase. Current law allows voters to petition their local government for a rollback election if the entity’s new revenue exceeds 8 percent. Proposals in the Texas House and Senate would reduce that rollback rate to 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively, and make the elections automatic.
Abbott and supporters of the legislation say it is needed to provide relief for homeowners. Locals officials contend the bill will save taxpayers little money while harming their ability to fund services for growing populations.
Rawlings said reducing the rollback rate could hamper Dallas’ ability to hire police officers and pay for the pensions of fire and safety personnel.
The focus, Rawlings and others say, should be on reforming school property taxes, which comprise the lion’s share of local taxpayers’ bills.
“We’re kind of playing around the edges from a perceptual standpoint from kind of a symbolic standpoint,” Rawlings said. “It’s a bad bill.”