Mineral exploration may mean lower property taxes in Hardin County

Mineral exploration may mean lower property taxes in Hardin County

Thursday, August 31st 2006

Most Hardin County homeowners could pay less in property taxes this coming year, thanks to increased mineral exploration offsetting the timber value loss due to Hurricane Rita, County Judge Billy Caraway said.

In Sour Lake, for example, property owners could see their tax bill drop by as much as $160 on a $100,000 home. Their counterparts in Lumberton could see theirs decrease $122. In Silsbee, home owners could see a $31 reduction.

However, Kountze residents might see increased taxes to cover outstanding loan debt.

Despite the proposed rate decreases, entities would receive more revenue than they did the previous year, thanks to more taxable wealth. Much of it is coming from growth in the natural gas and oil industry, Caraway said.

Hardin County Commissioners Court has proposed a 1-cent property tax decrease to 59 cents per $100 property valuation. Although the tax rate would decrease overall, it would be about 1.6 cents higher than what would be necessary generate last year’s revenue.

The county will hold a public hearing on the tax rate Sept. 11 at 9:30 a.m. and again at 10 a.m. on Sept. 18 before adopting it.

Caraway said the additional revenue will be used to give county employees a 4 percent raise, and it will cover a $1 million down payment on the Hardin County jail expansion.

With only 127 beds, the jail needs to increase its inmate living space, Caraway said.

“We didn’t pass our last inspection because we had so many people in there. We’re overcrowded like almost everybody else in the state.”

In Silsbee, City Manager Tommy Bartosh said the city tax rate is expected to remain at 35.06 cents per $100 valuation, which is slightly above the effective tax rate, or the rate that would generate the previous year’s revenues, according to the Hardin County Tax Assessor’s calculations.

City officials are creating a proposed budget that will have to take into account the potential cost of razing 30 to 40 dilapidated properties that owners walked away from, Bartosh said.

“At $3,000 to $5,000 a structure, we have to come up with the money for that,” Bartosh said.

Sour Lake City Manager Larry Saurage said the city tax rate will remain the same.

However, a proposed 15-cent decrease in Hardin-Jefferson Independent School District’s tax rate would, for example, lead to a $82,960 home in the 1100 block of Old Beaumont Road seeing a savings of $132.74.

While the municipal tax rate will remain the same next year, Saurage said utility fees could go up the following year to cover water and sewer service costs. Saurage said the utility fees haven’t been increased in at least seven or eight years.

Kountze City Council will not propose a tax rate until after it conducts a budget workshop Sept. 5. However, City Secretary Kim McDaniel said the tax rate could increase from 38.7 cents per $100 valuation to at least 43.7 cents in order to cover years-old short- and long-term loans that need to be paid off.

Kountze Independent School District adopted a 17.6 cent tax hike per $100 valuation Monday, which is about 2.8 cents more than what is needed to maintain operation revenue and to pay off debts.

With the proposed tax rates, a home in the 1600 block of North Pine Street appraised at $64,340 in 2006 could expect to pay $138.61 more in total taxes next year.

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©The Beaumont Enterprise 2006

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