Montgomery County will propose a tax rate of $0.3764 per $100 of taxable property to fund its fiscal year 2022-23 budget, following an Aug. 9 Commissioners Court session. As the rate is above the county’s no-new-revenue rate rate, there will be a public hearing scheduled for Aug. 26, where the budget will also be adopted.

The four commissioners approved the tax rate, as County Judge Mark Keough was absent due to illness, according to Jason Millsaps, his chief of staff. State law requires counties to have at least four members of the commissioners court present before changes to the tax rate can be approved.

Montgomery County’s property tax rate has decreased annually since 2019, according to a tax rate history document on the county website. Certified property values have increased in the same time, according to truth-in-taxation worksheets available on the tax assessor-collector website. 2022 values were calculated using a certified property value of $73.3 billion, according to county Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said the rate was “probably the largest drop” while Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Walker thanked McRae and Budget Officer Amanda Carter for their work during budget workshops.

“It’s tough. There’s a lot of services that we do, and you all have done a great job working these numbers,” Walker said.

Law enforcement staffing, salary costs

According to Carter, increases to law enforcement personnel under the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and justices of the peace as well as a 5% countywide raise contributed to the rate exceeding the no-new-revenue rate of $.3312.

“We have added certification programs for law enforcement,” Carter said. “There’s almost 300 officers eligible for additional certification pay.”

A renegotiation of The Woodlands’ interlocal agreement with Montgomery County regarding law enforcement services also contributed. Carter did not have specifics on the contract, but said funding for part of the new contract would come from property tax revenue while the other part would come out of the county’s fund balance.

Carter also cited lower revenues than the previous year as another reason for the tax rate, with county courts still facing backlogs due to the pandemic.

Tax rates were initially set to be decided Aug. 5, according to a previously approved budget calendar. However, Carter and McRae reported at a July 26 meeting that the Montgomery Central Appraisal District would not have certified property values until Aug. 5, past a statutory deadline of July 25. The missed deadline meant the county had to wait to set new rates.

Noack criticized the appraisal district in a statement delivered on behalf of the court following commissioners’ approval of the rate.

“There’s some disappointment that the largest entity using MCAD [services] could not meet their schedule [for] tax rate calculations because the appraiser could not certify on time,” Noack said. “Not only did they fail the government, but they failed the citizens.”

A history of lowering tax rates

According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, taxing units must calculate a no-new-revenue rate and a voter-approval rate after receiving the certified property roll. The no-new-revenue rate would produce the same amount of property tax revenue if applied to the same properties taxed in both years, while the voter-approval rate—which combines a maintenance and operations rate and a debt service rate—is the maximum rate that can be set without voter approval.

McRae provided the county’s calculations to Community Impact Newspaper, which showed the voter-approval rate was $0.4022 per $100 in addition to the $0.3312 no-new-revenue rate. She told commissioners that the rate needed to fund the county’s general fund was $.2895, the road and bridge rate was $​​.0393, and the debt service rate was $.0476—all of which add up to $.3764.

“I would like to caution [commissioners], going forward, any changes after we adopt that budget eats into whatever we have the following year,” McRae said at the meeting.

Montgomery County has adopted tax rates either equal to or lower than the effective rate for each year since 2019, according to the county’s tax rate history. The county’s 2021 tax rate is $0.4083 per $100 of appraised property.

The public hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 26.