I have been an advocate for property tax relief since I first joined city council. Beginning in early 2018, I actively advocated for an increase in the residential homestead exemption from the current 8% to 20%, the maximum level allowed under state law. In June 2019, I successfully obtained the first increase in our homestead exemptions in over 15 years, increasing the residential homestead exemption from 8% to 14%. I will continue to pursue further increases in this exemption.
Some are convinced that we must choose between pursuing long overdue capital improvements and tax relief for our citizens. Council has, for various reasons, delayed making these investments in recent years. That has led, along with rising property values and increased sales tax revenues, to an extraordinarily large general fund balance.
Meanwhile, residents have seen their property tax bills from the city soar by over 23% in just four years. Allowing those increases to continue without any plan to slow the burden placed on our homeowners is unconscionable.
I don’t believe it was any accident which slowed the pace of implementing projects in our capital improvement plan. With a relatively small city staff, there are only so many capital investments we can manage at any given time. I don’t believe that increasing our city staff is the answer. Instead, we must take a practical and critical approach to our capabilities to make investments and adjust the level of taxation to reflect our capabilities to make good use of those funds.
I strongly support capital projects such as flood control, new city entrances, a new golf course convention center and clubhouse, and a new city hall. We’re in a position where we can pay cash for each of these projects. And yet, none of these projects would be put in jeopardy by an increase in the residential homestead exemption. In fact, if we continue on our current course, we will be right back where we began once all of these overdue projects are completed: property tax revenues growing at an increasing rate and no clear cut plan to provide citizens with value for their tax dollars in a timely manner.
By making the case to my colleagues on city council, I’m confident we will achieve the goal of tax relief for citizens of Jersey Village. The case must be made while armed with facts, evidence of continued economic growth, and dogged persistence from an advocate on city council. I have been, and will continue to be, that advocate.