Thursday, August 20, 2015

Community newspaper report gives readers an in-depth guide to understanding local tax rates

Wikipedia map/Hemphill County
The Canadian Record, located in North Texas oil country, has created an in-depth look at how Hemphill County's tax rates for 2015-16 are being created and how they could affect various aspects of the county. It's a great example of local reporting on a subject that might be confusing to many readers but is an important issue to all members of the community.

The Record's report, "It's Your Money," includes the school district's plans "to expand classroom space and its debate whether to proceed with a more ambitious and far-reaching construction project, in light of flagging oil prices and the resulting downturn in the oil and gas industry, which has fueled the Hemphill County economy for so many years," reports the Record.

The report also provides information about each of the five taxing entities fiscal plans, "boiling down the essential numbers that taxpayers need to understand and offering a snapshot of each entity’s budget priorities for the coming year," reports the Record.

Public meetings that begin next week will give residents the opportunity to comment on proposed tax rates, reports the Record. "These hearings are the culmination of a process that began when elected representatives of each taxing unit began reviewing their budgets and considering the expenditures that will need to be made in the next year."

"After receiving notices of certified property values from the Hemphill County Appraisal District office earlier this summer, each entity took the first step toward adopting a tax rate, by calculating and publishing its effective and rollback tax rates and setting dates for public hearings," reports the Record. "The effective tax rate (ETR) is a calculated rate that would provide the taxing unit with about the same amount of revenue it received the year before. When property values rise, the ETR falls, and vice versa."

"Each entity also established its rollback rate—a calculated maximum rate they are allowed by law to set, without voter approval," reports the Record. "The rollback rate provides the taxing unit with approximately the same amount of tax revenue it spent the previous year for day-to-day operations, plus an extra 8 percent increase to maintain those operations and to pay any debt. If an entity adopts a tax rate higher than the rollback rate, voters in the taxing unit can circulate a petition calling for an election to limit the size of the tax increase." (Read more)

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