Two Lubbock County commissioners skip meeting to ensure effective rate is implemented
No show, no vote. That was the strategy for Commissioners Jason Corley and Chad Seay.
State law mandates four members of the court must be present to set the county's property tax rate.
"We were able to go ahead and adopt the budget with the amendments that would lower it to the effective tax rate," Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish said. "However, because they chose not to be here and to participate, we could not adopt the effective tax rate."
The "effective rate" generates the same revenue from properties on the appraisal rolls both last year, and this year.
Each year, local governments must set a rate. This is different from how sales or income tax rates are implemented. Last year's property tax rate expires. A new one must be adopted by the start of each new fiscal year.
What some call a "flat rate" means setting the same rate as last year. But in this instance, it would lead to a larger bill, on average, because of increased appraisals.
Commissioner Seay said not showing up to Monday's meeting guarantees citizens won't face a tax hike.
He and Corley said they do not trust the court process.
"The last budget that was filed, with the county clerk's office was filed with the flat rate, not the effective rate, after we all agreed on that Thursday to vote in the effective rate, so you know, the proof is in the pudding," Corley said.
Corley said they received another budget showing the revenue an effective rate would generate, but he said that rate could be amended from the dais.
"The way they agreed with stuff today, they had no choice," Seay said. "They had to do it, so instead of fighting about it, they could just go along with it, and then if we attend the next meeting and they decide they want to do a budget amendment then, then we're back to square one."
The two commissioners said they will show up to the next meeting on Sept. 23 on one condition: written assurances from the other commissioners that they will vote for the effective rate.
"If not, then I just plan on not being present and watching the effective rate get rolled in automatically," Corley said.
What is left now is to wait, they said, and continue working, preparing for next year.
If a tax rate is not adopted by the end of this month, it will automatically revert to the effective rate.
"I hope that we can all come back together," Seay said. "I do like the budget that was proposed that we had all agreed upon with the effective rate. I think it's a good budget. I just do not trust this county commissioner's court with all five of us being there, that we can get that done."