As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the overall tax rate is broken down into four county taxing entities as follows: a proposed Harris County tax rate of $0.39116, down from $0.40713 in FY 2019-20; a proposed Harris County Flood Control District tax rate of $0.03142, up from $0.02792 in FY 2019-20; a proposed Harris Health System tax rate of $0.16671, up from $0.16591 in FY 2019-20; and a proposed Port of Houston Authority tax rate of $0.00991, down from $0.01074 in FY 2019-20.
During the Sept. 29 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting at which the rates were first proposed, Harris County Budget Director David Berry said the tax rate increase for HCFCD is necessary to avoid an $18.6 million funding cut. Additionally, while Berry noted that the Harris Health System is currently in strong financial shape, uncertainties remain surrounding the entity's future needs with regard to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Following a public hearing Oct. 20 for the proposed tax rate increases for HCFCD and Harris Health System, all four of the proposed tax rates were brought back to the court for consideration Oct. 27 and were subsequently approved unanimously. The new tax rate will save taxpayers 1.3 cents per $100 of assessed value on their homes, or approximately $26 on a home valued at $200,000.
Tom Ramsey, the former mayor of Spring Valley and former president of the Harris County Mayor Council, which includes 34 cities across Harris County, spoke prior to the vote in favor of the tax rate decrease.
"When cities and counties do a good job of providing safe neighborhoods and improved infrastructure for flood control, streams and parks, then the [property] values go up," Ramsey said. "Even in the COVID[-19] season, we see the property values are going up this year 6%. I think it's reasonable to expect that our city and county governments would set a rate that helps mitigate the increased taxes that people are paying—and particularly during this time, when so many businesses are trying to open safely and families are doing all they know to do to make ends meet."
Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia also lauded the tax rate decrease, especially in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
“Reducing tax rates while people are struggling from all the effects of this nasty pandemic has been a top priority for my office," Garcia said in a statement. "Every dollar counts right now. Making this plan even better, essential county services—which help buoy the local economy—will still be funded. This widespread virus only increases the need for a strong public health plan and at the same time, does not reduce our risk for devastating flooding. This is good government at work: We help taxpayers while still funding crucial county priorities.”