MIDLOTHIAN

The Midlothian City Council discussed potentially capping the property tax ceiling for senior citizens 65 years or older for the 2019-20 operating budget during its budget workshops Tuesday and last Friday.

The council, which was meeting to discuss expenditures on the 2018-19 budget, looked ahead to possible tax changes for the budget cycle.

“If your values go down, your taxes could go down, but they can’t go up and exceed a certain amount,” city manager Chris Dick said. “Schools and the county have that option. They have elected to have that option.”

Dick said two separate actions would have to be taken at different times to enact the tax ceiling. First, the council would have to adopt a new tax ceiling before July 1 next year to submit tax information to the county. Second, they opt not to renew the $70,000 exemption during its next renewal period in September.

Under the city’s current tax laws, senior citizens are entitled to a $70,000 exemption on their appraisals if they are 65 or older. The cap would place a limit on taxable income, but it would get rid of the $70,000 exemption. Residents currently 65 or older would retain the tax exemption and benefit from the cap, while residents younger than 65 before July 1 would only get the cap.

“For the existing homeowner that have been here for 50 years, when they turn 65, they’ve been expecting all these years to get the $70,000 exemption," place four council member Joe Frizell said. "Under the tax ceiling, they wouldn't."

Dick said the council could also do a combination option where they issue the exemption to residents who turn 65 two years from now as well. But whatever council decides, they will have to dictate action before July 1 to be considered.

EMERGENCY SERVICES DISTRICT

The council also discussed potentially pulling funding from the Emergency Services District located in Ellis County, which would give the city an additional $625,000 to fund its capital projects.

While a majority of council members opted to continue funding, place three council member Jimmie McClure disagreed. She said the decision should go to the public in a referendum to be voted on.

“It is unfair to say, ‘taxpayers, you’re going to fund this. You have no say,’” she said. “They now have an option. They can either stay with the emergency service district or decide as a subdivision to annex themselves into the city and pay to have emergency services.”

Frizell disagreed, saying that an effective educational campaign would be needed so voters could appropriately understand the issue before they voted on it. Place six council member Art Pierard said it might look like the city doesn’t care about the EMS district.

“The city is the taxpayer,” McClure asserted.

The council tabled the discussion for a later date. After council holds its remaining workshops throughout August, it will publish its tax statement and rollback rates by the end of the month.

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David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX

469-517-1456