It won’t be official until mid-September, but property owners in the City of Cleveland could see their city tax rate drop by 4 cents. Cleveland City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 23, approved lowering the tax rate from $0.755 to $0.715 per $100 valuation. Based on a home valued at $100,000, that is an annual savings of $40. The City’s proposed tax rate makes up a portion of the overall taxes collected on a property and does not include Cleveland ISD or other taxing entities.
With house prices continuing to skyrocket in Liberty County, any savings will likely be a wash because of higher appraised values, which is controlled by the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
In 2021, the certified value for properties within the City of Cleveland was $449 million; for 2022, the new certified values are $566 million, which means that even with the property tax decrease, the City still stands to collect additional revenue. Dozens of homes were built in the city since 2021, so the 2022 certified value includes the new properties as well as the existing rooftops.
At the start of the meeting, former Cleveland Mayor Niki Coats, who serves on the Liberty County Central Appraisal District review board, urged the Council to lower the tax rate. He described seeing the despair some property owners are experiencing as they are being taxed out of their homes or unable to afford necessary repairs, and how the State is pushing more of the expense of schools onto property owners.
“The higher the value of the properties, the more property taxes are collected for the schools. The more the ISDs have in property taxes, the less money the state has to fund. Cleveland is a super example of that more than anybody in the state. They want Liberty County appraisals as high as they can be and they instruct the CAD offices and the appraisers not to budge,” Coats said. “If you protest your taxes, 9 times out of 10, you are going to get little to zero relief. It doesn’t matter how much it went up from the year before, but things have changed. That’s all I am going to say about that. Things have changed.”
Councilman Fred Terrell previously served on the CAD review board, and he shared having some of the same experiences as Coats.
“Appraised value is not market value. They are saying they are getting close to market value but there is no more appraised value in the State of Texas. It’s all market value,” Terrell said.
Coats called appraised values a “bald-faced lie.”
“If you bought property in November 2021, by the beginning of this year, they already have it increased. When the values go up, they are all over it. When the values go down, it takes two to three years to see it changed,” he said. “The comptroller is controlling it. That’s what is driving the Liberty County Central Appraisal District. It’s mainly because the school districts are building more schools and that has to be supported.”
Initially the City of Cleveland was proposing a 3-cent property tax decrease, but Mayor Richard Boyett said that wasn’t enough and suggested the 4-cent decrease.
“If the schools and cities go ahead and drop their rates, then you aren’t supposed to be paying extra money, but it never works out that way,” Boyett said.
The City is still hammering out the details of the new fiscal year budget. Council plans to meet on Tuesday, Aug. 30, for a budget workshop.
Councilman Eddie Lowery told Bluebonnet News that he hopes the final budget will be fiscally conservative.
“We are behind on our budget planning but the one thing we all agreed to is cutting taxes. We will be making sure that everything that is needed is funded, and probably not funding all the wants of the departments,” Lowery said.
Council also set the date, time and location to hold a hearing on the budget and the proposed tax rate. Both hearings will be held during a Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 6 p.m., at the City Council chambers in City Hall.