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The lowdown on why your tax bill's so high
by Carolyn Kahant for TaxpayersWatch
Posted 11/9/05
     Kerr County property owners will be paying a higher tax bill this year for the following  reasons:
     1. Overall rising home prices.
     According to Mike Comer at the Kerr Central Appraisal District, all property went up this year in a range from 5 to 12% (residential, up 5 to 10%; commercial, up 12%). Comer informed me that property valuations have gone up every year since 1993.
      Paula Rector, Kerr County Tax Assessor/Collector, told me the average home valuation this year in Kerr County is $115,213, up from 2004's $105,487. That's a 9% increase. This alone would cost the hypothetical average homeowner $36.19 more in county taxes.
     To go to the big picture, the total of all of taxable property in Kerr County, Rector said,  is valued this year at ... ready for this? ... $2,840,108,495. Yes, that's almost three billion, and it's $278,740,875 more than in 2004. Remember, though, this is "net taxable", meaning "after exemptions" such as agricultural, homestead, disabled, etc., which removes a large chunk.
     2. An increase in the county ad valorem tax rate.
     The Kerr County Commissioners Court voted on September 30 to set a rate of .3896 per $100 valuation on your real estate holdings. This is a 1.75 cent increase over last year's rate of .3721. Your tax statement breaks this down into two items: Kerr County and Lateral Roads. (I might mention the Lateral Roads tax rate, which partly funds the Road and Bridge Department, has increased 44% over 5 years!)
     When we take that hypothetical average home value of $115,213, we find this average homeowner will be billed $56.35 more than last year (for a total $448.86) because of the combined tax rate and appraisal value increases. Admittedly not enough to make anyone picket the courthouse, but still an undesirable addition to creeping taxflation.
     To look at the big picture once again, the total county tax levy for 2005 comes to $9,923,241, which is $1,182,664 more than last year. Over one million in increased revenues! -- which leads us to the third reason for higher taxes --
     3. The Juvenile Detention Facility 
     It cost the county well over one million above and beyond what it brought in during this past budget year. Do you wonder why the commissioners say we just don't have the money this  
year for some of the normal functions that were funded in the past? Wonder no more ... this is the best answer you'll come up with.
Other taxing districts
    With rising home values, tax rates should go down. Don't be fooled by unchanged rates. While Kerr County's tax rate has gone up, our other taxing districts have either stayed the same or gone down.
     Headwaters-Groundwater Conservation District (HGCD) and Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) are both county-wide taxing districts. HGCD has a low tax rate of .0095, even lower than last year's .0097. But with an increase in value of 9%, our average homeowner will still pay more -- $10.95  instead of last year's $10.23.
     UGRA has brought it's rate down to .0279 from last year's .0295. Even so, last year's tax was $31 for our average homeowner, and this year's is $32. It's a mystery to me why UGRA needs three times as much as HGCD -- if any readers out there have an idea, please enlighten me.
     Adding these together, the amount billed to our hypothetical average homeowner for 2005 by county-wide taxing authorities comes to $492, which is $58 more than last year's $434.
     Kerr County Emergency Services District No. 1, in the Ingram area, remains at .0215 per $100 valuation, and has decreased 4.5 percent since 2000. However, it will receive more money because of higher valuations. Our average homeowner will pay $2.23 more this year than last, almost $25 in all. Kerr County Emergency Services District No. 2 (the Mountain Home area), however, went from .0380 in 2004 to a low .0081 this year. Property valued at $115,213 would be taxed only $9.33; last year the same property was billed $40.
School district taxes
     Kerrville ISD's tax rate was lowered this year to 1.670 from 1.683. Yet the average homeowner, who paid $1522.89 in school taxes last year, will pay $1663.55 this year, a $140.66 increase.
     If our average homeowner lives in the Ingram School District, although the tax rate has remained at 1.578, he/she will pay $1581.36 -- $153.50 more than last year's $1427.88.
     Hunt ISD rate stayed at 1.48, but our average homeowner's bill there is $1483, an increase of $144 over the previous year's $1339.
     Divide ISD has lowered it's rate to .98 from 1.18, so an average homeowner in that district will pay LESS this year -- $982, over $85 less than last year's $1067.74. Way to go, Divide!
City taxes also increase
     Lastly, if the average homeowner resides in the city of Ingram or Kerrville he/she will have still more tax to pay. Though Ingram has kept it's tax rate at .3241, their tax bill has increased $31.53 in 2005 for our average homeowner, for a total of $373.40. Kerrville lowered it's rate from .5632 in 2004 to .5578 this year. Even so, our hypothetical homeowner will pay $48.56 more -- $642.66 rather than last year's $594.10.
     To add up a single example, an average Kerr County homeowner living in the Ingram city limits will pay a total tax of $2471.76 this year. I leave it to you to judge the value received from this substantial investment.
     And that's the lowdown on your high tax bills.  

TaxpayersWatch for Kerr County
Webmaster Keely Vanacker