Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia proposed a tax rate plan that would generate $66.8 million less in revenue than in the plan he backed at previous commissioners court meetings during a news conference on Oct. 14.
His new plan calls for an overall county tax rate of $0.56309 per $100 valuation. The rate is lower than the $0.575 opposed by Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, and higher than the rate for Cagle’s plan, according to an Oct. 13 document sent by Budget Director Daniel Ramos to members of Commissioners Court.
Cagle did not provide the tax rates that corresponded to his plan when he proposed it on Oct. 4, but an Oct. 5 document from the budget office shows his plan requires an overall tax rate of $0.55632. Garcia’s proposal brings in the same amount of revenue as Cagle’s for the county’s general fund, the Harris County Flood Control District and the Port of Houston Authority, but differs by providing $37.9 million more in revenue for the Harris Health System.
Garcia said his proposal also includes an additional 2.5% pay increase for law enforcement and $20 million for 200 deputy positions—a figure Ramsey has reiterated, most recently on Oct. 11. But unlike Ramsey, Garcia did not specify whether those positions would be for the sheriff’s office, the constables’ offices or both. The former Harris County Sheriff said he believed hiring 200 additional officers would help reduce crime.
“Citizens want to see a police officer when they don’t need them,” Garcia said. “The only way to accomplish that goal and create that sense of safety and security is to have deputies being able to patrol our respective neighborhoods.”
Tax rate meetings
Two special sessions of commissioners court are scheduled for Oct. 17 and Oct. 18. The first meeting could provide the commissioners the “discussion-only” option—one that Cagle called for on Oct. 4 and again in a statement to Community Impact following Garcia’s news conference—to debate different tax plans without having to take a vote.
“Upon verification by the County Attorney’s office that no vote can be taken on a tax rate at [the Oct. 17] meeting, Commissioner Cagle will attend and looks forward to the discussion,” Precinct 4 Communications Director Joe Stinebaker told Community Impact.
According to First Assistant County Attorney Jay Aiyer, “absolutely no vote” can occur at that meeting.
As it stands, a public hearing for the proposed overall tax rate of $0.575 will be held Oct. 18. Critically, neither Cagle’s nor Garcia’s plan can be voted on for adoption during that meeting.
According to the state’s tax code, the county must notice proposed tax rates in a newspaper at least five days before a public hearing. If the commissioners wanted to vote on a different rate than the $0.575 rate, it would have to be reposted at a later date, according to a statement from Aiyer.
When asked whether he would vote to adopt the tax rates as proposed if Ramsey or Cagle showed up at the Oct. 18 meeting, Garcia said his proposal “checks every box” his colleagues have asked for.
“I am trying to demonstrate that I know how to negotiate [and] that I know how to bring people to the middle to find a common agreement,” Garcia said. “But if they don’t show … they never had any intention of making a deal.”