My take on the 17-14 Senate vote to exclude rural communities on property tax reform

It is heartbreaking that 17 out of 31 Senators did not find it relevant to include rural communities in property tax reform. Granting roughly 50 counties out of 254 the right to vote and a cap is incorrigible!

I am grateful to Senator Bryan Hughes for voting against this measure.

My Representative is Jay Dean. Before his freshman term, Jay was the Mayor of Longview. For 10 years, while Mayor, Jay will tell you that he never raised taxes to even 3%. And, on particular projects that he and the City Council sought for Longview, those measures were sent to the taxpayers for a vote. We simply want the same thing!

My husband and I live in Upshur now. Our property appraisals are being raised closer to Gregg County every year. Though Upshur is a larger county mass wise, our population is roughly 40,600 compared to 124,000 in Gregg County (2015 numbers). Yes, we are rural, however, our County Judge and Sheriff both have someone to answer their phones.  Imagine that!

There is no industry in Upshur except a Rob Roy plant that no longer has evening shifts. The largest employers in Upshur are the county and schools. Otherwise, many go to surrounding cities/counties for work.

We have a Walmart. The City of Gilmer tried to pull in a Super Walmart. However, after an internal study, the Walmart home office elected to not locate a Super Walmart in Gilmer because our current store is “not making enough money”.  So, we have a little Walmart, like they had in Longview in early 2000, that is split to be like a Super Walmart. However, as one can imagine only a very selective choice of items. And you know what?  I am ok with that.  If the store does not have what I need, my husband, who works in Gregg, can pick it up on his way home. We live in the country. That’s just how it is.

Our County Sheriff, newly elected, is struggling to train his deputies, outfit them with proper protective gear, etc. on a shoe string budget.  In reality, our whole county is doing the same thing.  Our county officials, the top “dream job” of most have not had a raise in a decade. Actually, our Commissioners cut their pay and benefits by $11,000 each to make payroll to partially cover an $100,000 deficit.

Oh, and ETMC moved out of the county a little over a year after we moved here. There is not a hospital in Upshur.

As I understand it, this was due to severely poor management by inexperienced county officials over a decade ago.  As one can imagine, we are grateful to have the folks currently in office.

Many that I have spoken to have had to recently combat the county appraiser on excessively large tax increases. One couple had two acres of their 100 plus acre property raised because they repaired a portion of their barbed wire fence. This couple reports that this particular area is not utilized.

When my husband and I moved to Upshur, there was a water well and an unconnected electrical pole, that had been through a fire in 2011, on the other end of our 11 acres.  On the opposite end, we added a $5,000 pre-made barn, our paid off RV, a crushed iron ore driveway that cost us $4,500, fenced in a 100 x 100 ft. of cyclone fence for Gus and our chicken coop, and an unconnected electrical pole and box. That raised our appraisal by $12,000. We purchased our 11 acres at less than $3,000 per acre.

As many on Facebook know, we are building our home ourselves (I have a very talented husband).

When we moved out here there were less than a handful of homes. A ministry outfit purchased 13 acres down the road from us. Almost $7,000 an acre. For what? There are no improvements other than cutting down trees to put a used mobile home on each track, running electric to it, and room to park their vehicles.

There are two acres between our property and the 14-acre track next door. Those 2 acres are mostly creek. The owners, according to the appraisal district, live in Cass County. $10,000 for 2 acres of creek!

This area has one school for K through 12 (2 buildings).

In three years, acreage out here has risen to $5,000 an acre; all creek and $7,000 an acre with no creek.

I am told that Straus wants comprehensive property tax reform. But I have a sneaking suspicion that does not include a cap nor an automatic election/right to vote for us pesky peasants.

I gather the other 204 counties, unworthy in the eyes of 17 Texas Senators, only have our Representatives and the Freedom Caucus to protect us now.

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