Ronald Reagan once observed that, “Whenever we lower the tax rates, our entire nation is better off.” The Texas version of that statement equates to: Whenever we lower property tax rates to the no-new-revenue level or lower, our entire state is better off.
For those not familiar with the term, the no-new-revenue tax rate is the tax rate that, if adopted, would produce the same amount of taxes if applied to the same properties from one year to the next. It’s intended to put no new revenue in government coffers, just as the name suggests. If property values rise, the no-new-revenue tax rate goes down, and vice versa. In the current appraisal environment, in which statewide property values are up “between 20-50% since last year,” we would see enormous tax hikes unless officials adopt much lower property tax rates. The enactment of the no-new-revenue rate, on the other hand, would drive down rates dramatically, meaning many Texans would see lower property tax bills.
One way to think of this is as a taxpayer time-out. It’s tantamount to pushing pause on tax increases for a year, giving homeowners and renters a chance to catch their breath, and businesses the chance to keep their doors open. That’s something we could all use right now, considering the increased cost of gas, groceries, and rent.
The no-new-revenue idea is one that ought to be on the lips of every Texan at the moment. The reason is that most local governments are putting the finishing touches on their budget and tax rates, which means that now is the time for tax-weary Texans to press their case. Local elected officials of every stripe ought to be encouraged to make this a priority.
Unfortunately, this idea doesn’t seem to have stuck in Corpus Christi. City officials recently adopted a tax rate of $0.620261 per $100 of value, well above the no-new-revenue tax rate of $0.578740 per $100. Taxpayers should expect a pinch, especially since appraisal values have increased this year by 20% to 24% for residential properties and 26% to 30% for commercial properties.
Raising taxes today is a bad idea—but it’s not a surprising turn of events. The city has long struggled with fiscal restraint. Consider that from 2017 to 2021, the city of Corpus Christi’s property tax levy grew by 25.1%. In contrast, the combined increase in population and inflation totaled just 8.1%. This demonstrates a major difference between how fast taxes ought to be growing and how fast taxes are growing.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, it’s not just the city that’s been behaving badly. Over the same timeframe, Nueces County’s property tax levy rose by 24.3% while its population and inflation increased only 8.2%. Likewise, Corpus Christi ISD’s property tax levy jumped by 20% while student enrollment and inflation edged up just 0.5%.
These numbers suggest that Corpus Christi-area governments are overtaxing homeowners and businesses by a wide margin. They also show that officials have enough padding in the budget—thanks to years of excess—to adopt the no-new-revenue tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year and still provide adequate services.
With the U.S. economy in a recession, it’s the wrong time for tax hikes in Corpus Christi. Whether it’s the city, county, school district, or any other government type, raising taxes today is bound to hurt not help. Local officials would do better lower tax rates as much as possible and reduce the burden of government.
In so doing, Corpus Christi residents will be better off—as will the rest of Texas.