It's no secret. Mansfield is an exclusive community with some amazing city services and high property taxes that go along with it. In recent years home values have begun to skyrocket and our property tax bills are skyrocketing along with them. It is possible to provide tax relief for Mansfield Homeowners and here is how that should be accomplished.
Mansfield has the 2nd highest tax rate of any major city in Tarrant County. We're now the 3rd largest city in Tarrant County - we're no longer that small country town just south of Arlington. Our property tax rate has been set at .71% of appraised value for years. We're also 1 of only 2 cities that does not provide a homestead exemption to our homeowners. Bedford also doesn't give a homestead exemption but their property tax rate is also 33% lower than ours.
If you look at the chart below you'll see that the median tax rate in Tarrant County is .598950% with a 15.5% homestead exemption. That means on a $200,000 home the average property tax bill in Tarrant County is $401.79/year less than the same home in Mansfield, TX.
If it stopped at that, I'd probably say that Mansfield is worth more than those other cities. The challenge is that combined with property value increases the growing property tax bill each year is out of control. That $200,000 home back in 2013 is now worth $275,000 - bringing along with it a $2,158 increase in overall property tax bill since 2013 ($532 of that is increased Mansfield City property taxes).
That is unsustainable for most families.
My opponent and many existing city council members and Mansfield city staff will blame Austin and state officials on their cuts to school funding as the problem with property taxes. They're not entirely wrong. The state has continually cut funding to public education, passing along more and more of that burden over to the local school district. School districts aren't allowed by the state to lower their property tax rates without being penalized by the state for doing so. This is a problem that needs addressed in Austin.
However passing the blame off entirely to Austin is irresponsible. Our city operates its budget and tax revenue independently of Austin. Our city has control and can take responsibility for what we can do to provide some property tax relief for homeowners. It is a possibility. Our city tax revenue is up substantially over the past few years. The homeowners funding the whole operation should see a break.
Why Current City Council Hasn't Provided Tax Relief
A quick look at the list of projects the city is working on and the general fund committed to those projects is a good indicator why we haven't seen any form of tax relief from the City of Mansfield even though revenues are soaring. They'll say its because we had to give raises to police and fire, or that healthcare rates increased, or that operation costs are high.
But here are a few projects happening on the 2017/2018 fiscal year and the dollar amounts associated from the general fund:
- Shops at Broad: $4.562 Million (this doesn't count the $10M coming from the Mansfield Economic Dev. Corp.)
- Shops at Broad Marquee sign: $237,500
- Shops at Broad Underground Utilities: $500,000
- East Broad Street Improvements to Support Shops at Broad: $2.7M (this doesn't count the $4M coming from MEDC)
- Main St. Lofts Public Improvements: $296,850
- Main St. Lofts Hardscape and Landscape: $352,000
- Main St. Lofts Irrigation: $179,410
- Main St. Lofts Site Furnishings: $121,000
- Main St. Lofts Incentives: $371,250
- Main St. Turn Lane: $99,001
- Main St. Lofts Construction Costs Phase I&II: $500,000
- StarCenter: $4.855M (This doesn't count the $7.4M or the $3.8M this year coming from the Mansfield Parks Department Fund).
That is a quick glance over recent city projects shows $14,774,011 in spending in 2017/2018 toward a retail shopping center development, an apartment complex, and an ice rink less than 5% of Mansfield residents will use.
When I fought for tax relief last year as a private citizen I was told that it would cost about $3M to provide a homestead exemption to homeowners and that we couldn't do that without serious cuts to essential city services. I tend to disagree.
How to Actually Get Property Tax Relief for Mansfield Homeowners
My first action is to begin talking about property tax relief and discussing it regularly. As a council member I want our city staff to physically go through the process of creating a budget that provides property tax relief for average homeowners.
We have some challenges in the near future that are going to make immediate property tax relief in 2018/2019 difficult. Because of some recent mistakes my opponent and existing city council members have made, we are going to need tax revenue in the next year or so in order to take care of essential spending needed to manage our growth.
That doesn't mean we won't see property tax relief. It means that we're going to be discussing it regularly and that I want to see a city budget presented to me as a council member that has property tax relief in mind. I want to physically see where the cuts would be made. I want to see what it does to our city and how it impacts our growth and city services. Right now we're being told it's impossible. Show me.
If they show me that in order to provide any property tax relief it is going to mean laying off city staff, or cutting essential city services, or reducing employee salaries, or delaying needed infrastructure projects - okay. I'll concede temporarily for that year. But until they go through the effort of creating a budget that shows what property tax relief looks like I am not going to consider a different budget.
The best and most effective way of providing tax relief right now is through a homestead exemption. I'd like to see us on a 5 year plan to implementing a full homestead exemption that is comparable to other major Tarrant County cities. But for starters we could look at something like a 10% homestead exemption up to $25,000. This amount covers the appreciation the majority of homeowners in Mansfield will feel each year, keeps individual homeowners property tax bills from increasing substantially, but still allows the city to bring in more revenue than the year before. Then the next year, maybe we increase that amount to $35,000. Then maybe we bump the percentage up to 12% or 15%. We need to have the conversation regularly and set forth a multi-year plan to get city property taxes under control.
It's not a priority currently. In fact at a recent meeting an existing city council member suggested a tax rate increase.
In addition to slowly implementing a homestead exemption, with an eventual tax rate decrease in the future, I'll continue calling and fighting Austin to fix school funding. The ISD makes up 53% of our property tax bills. True tax relief will come when they are able to begin lowering their tax rate as well. But until then, the city has an opportunity to step in and at least help.