Commentary: Dan Patrick says cities ruin America. Come see Georgetown

Many people liken Georgetown to the town of Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Some even say we’re home to the “Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.” I doubt when folks stand in downtown Georgetown they say to themselves, “You know what? This is what’s wrong with our country.”

That’s why I take great offense to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blaming cities for “all our problems in America.” For many years, the city of Georgetown has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing cities in United States. We are perennially ranked as one of the top places to retire in the country. We are repeatedly awarded for our outstanding financial management and innovative governance. People who choose to live in Georgetown expect this trend to continue.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Property tax bill takes major step forward in Texas House.

Eight in 10 of our residents believe they received good value for their city taxes. A 2016 resident survey conducted by Texas State University showed that almost 80 percent of Georgetown residents believe the value for their city taxes paid is either “good” or “excellent.”

Several items that the Texas Legislature is considering during the special session could severely limit Georgetown’s ability to maintain our standards of safety, respond to increasing demands on our resources, and proactively encourage quality development.

This so-called property tax reform legislation making its way through the Capitol would have not saved Georgetown taxpayers a dime on their city taxes in fiscal year 2018. Moreover, the House sponsor of the property tax reform bill has said himself that the bill offers no real tax relief. What it would do is curtail our ability to respond to continued hypergrowth in the future.

VIEWPOINTS: Legislature should end illusion and provide real tax cuts.

Any partisan gains won by passing this legislation will be overshadowed when school districts need to increase their tax rates to cover for dwindling state support in public education. For fiscal year 2018, the owner of a home with an average value in Georgetown — $266,598 — will see school district taxes increase by $187. Georgetown ISD expects to remit $9.5 million to the state. This is a $6 million increase from 2017 — or an increase of $175 on the average homeowner’s tax bill.

In other words, of the almost $200 increase in taxes the average homeowner will pay in school taxes, less than $13 will stay in Georgetown to fund local schools. Furthermore, “Robin Hood” payments are expected to jump to almost $14 million in 2019.

For true property tax reform to occur, the state needs to address its own financial problems before turning cities into political scapegoats. While certain state legislators cry that “local control is out of control,” their own state budget reads: “Property values, and the estimates of local tax collections on which they are based, shall be increased by 7.04 percent for tax year 2017 and by 6.77 percent for tax year 2018.”

In other words, the state is mandating school property taxes increase over 13 percent in two years!

Be warned that half-baked changes to state law regarding annexation and permitting would greatly impact Georgetown’s ability to foster well-managed economic development and land use. Legislation that would allow unincorporated subdivisions to veto annexation plans would effectively freeze the current city boundaries and would give our city great pause when considering future developments.

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This legislation would hurt our ability to manage growth. It would create inefficiency and inequity in taxation, force the city to make poor planning decisions, and produce inconsistent, non-sequitur infrastructure development.

Any claims that cities have restricted economic growth through exerting long-standing local control authority run contrary to the economic indicators that show Georgetown is booming.

Please join me in asking Gov. Greg Abbott and Patrick to “stay in their lane.” What’s that old saying about glass houses?

Ross is mayor of Georgetown.

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