Taxes and Other Summer Fun
For many folks, Summer is a time to slow down and relax. But for the Denton City Council, the work heats up along with the weather. As you dive into your Summer book list, we’ll be diving into a sea of reports and spreadsheets. That’s because Summer is when your City Council considers the City budget and tax rates for the coming fiscal year.
My most important duty as your Council Member is stewardship of your tax dollars. For me, good stewardship means providing the highest quality of service at the lowest possible tax rate. With home values and tax appraisals on the rise, your City government owes homeowners the lowest property tax rate we can responsibly assess.
Thankfully, many Denton homeowners benefit from certain tax exemptions and freezes. However, many more either don’t qualify for exemptions yet or will buy a new home this year and thus “reset” their tax basis. So a low property tax rate benefits our neighbors most in need of relief. A low rate also attracts folks to Denton to start a business or invest in a new home. And of course, the less we spend on taxes the more we have in our family budgets to save for a rainy day, support charities, or add to the local economy.
You will be glad to know that the Denton budget process is built around the effective tax rate—the lowest rate necessary to collect the same revenue as last year. When our City economy is growing, like it is now, using the effective rate means lowering the tax rate below last year’s. And, in a growing economy your City Council can fund more necessities—like police and fire—without raising your tax bill.
An effective tax rate also adds transparency in the budget process. Because we start from a flat budget and the effective rate, if your City Council chooses to fund more than what the effective rate will cover, the additional spending is front and center. Clearly, my goal is to assess only the effective rate. But, in any given year it may be that we need additional funds to maintain high quality, critical services.
You deserve to know, and your Council Member should be able to tell you, what you get in exchange for your tax dollars. Even more so for taxes that exceed the effective rate. I applaud the City Manager and his staff for this year organizing their budget requests into priority tiers, with each tier representing a need for one cent over the effective tax rate. Between the City staff’s thriftiness and our growing economy, we expect to fund some top tier priorities at just the effective tax rate. But, if the City Council chooses to exceed the effective rate, we can tell you exactly why.