Oddly, this is good budget news in the “we were expecting it to be worse” category.
Local governments and school districts this year will suffer a second-straight year of sliding property tax revenues — their main source of revenue — according to data released on Thursday by the Harris County Appraisal District.
Harris County will see overall property values decrease about 1.1 percent this year, to a total of $270.2 billion. The City of Houston will see values fall 1.2 percent. Values within Houston Independent School District are expected to dip 0.9 percent.
“It’s not good news for jurisdictions, obviously, and, really, it may not be that good of news for property owners,” Chief Appraiser Jim Robinson said. “For homeowners who are looking for recovery of their investment, you, obviously, want to see values being up. The recovery, though, has begun to some extent.”
Harris County prepared its budget based on an earlier HCAD projection that taxable values would drop 2.7 percent. Thursday’s estimate of a 1.08 percent decline is good, said budget director Dick Raycraft, given that three-quarters of the county’s general fund is fed by property taxes. However, he said, that change, if it holds, would not be enough to replenish the county’s reserves.
The county cut 10 percent from last year’s budget when it passed its current $1.23 billion appropriation in March.
“We’re losing so much else through the legislative process and other aspects that it’s hard to tell what our final impact is going to be,” said Raycraft, who said he had not yet seen HCAD’s report. “We hope this is a step in the right direction.”
The latest appraisal figures allowed the city to shave $16 million off its projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1, said Finance Director Kelly Dowe. The gap has shrunk to about $80 million, he said.
So there’s your basis for the city’s optimism about not having to do too many layoffs. They were fortunate to get a revised update before having to commit to a budget, unlike the county. When property valuations go up from one year to the next, that’s when you know we’ll have truly turned the corner. Unfortunately, even if that happens this year, the county and HISD will still have taken a huge hit from the state’s budget. Turning the corner there will take legislative action in addition to the economy getting all the way out of the ditch. Who knows how long that will take? Houston Politics has more.