About an hour and a half north of Dallas is a small town by the name of Bells, which boasts a rich history and near 1,500 residents. Bells bills itself as being at the “Crossroads of Friendliness,” but despite its modest size and charm, the city currently finds itself on the radar of quite a few people.
That’s because, on Thursday, a local media outlet reported that the Bells City Council had just “voted to raise the property tax rate by 42%.” The eye-popping tax rate increase took the city’s tax rate from $0.486813 per $100 of value to $0.69 per $100 of value. That is expected to skyrocket the average homeowner’s tax bill (city portion only) from $908.63 paid in FY 2023 to $1,432.96 owed in FY 2024.
And, of course, a tax hike of that magnitude has many longtime residents upset.
According to one outspoken Bells resident, the city’s opportunistic cash grab is “very harsh all at once when wages are not going up. Half our community is elderly people that can’t afford their bill as it is.”
Such a sad state of affairs is rumored to be the result of gross fiscal mismanagement; but irrespective of its origin, it should alarm everyone that cities have the authority to spike tax rates to this extent. Who knew that a 42% rate hike was even possible?
The city’s decision is concerning for another reason too, as it may be part of a larger trend.
As previously noted, “Cities and school districts throughout Texas are plotting to take away the tax cut passed by the Legislature.” That is to say, local governments are using the Texas Legislature’s just-passed $18 billion tax relief package as an opportunity to raise taxes to excess without engendering too much of a fuss from unsuspecting taxpayers. After all, who’s going to notice a big tax increase when there’s an even bigger tax cut on the way?
Unfortunately, this sort of anti-taxpayer mentality seems to be more common than not. That much is apparent given the start of the new fiscal year (most jurisdictions began Oct. 1) and the tax rates that local governmental entities have adopted. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that this bad behavior may prompt state lawmakers to come to the defense of struggling taxpayers and enact much stronger protections in the future to protect tax relief as its intended and to make tax rate spikes, like the one in Bells, more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.