Texas must not cap Georgetown’s ability to protect public safety and other critical and basic needs.
Right now, state legislators are advancing a “revenue cap” proposal that could be disastrous for people in Georgetown and across Texas.
Revenue caps do not reduce anyone’s taxes. But they do severely limit what cities can spend on police, firefighters, roads, economic development, and other quality-of-life needs that residents demand and that attract the employers and workers at the heart of the “Texas Miracle.”
Like all of us, legislators are concerned about property taxes. Public schools, and the state’s broken school finance system, make up the biggest part of the tax bill by far. That’s why Texas’ leadership and legislature are to be applauded for their work on legislation to increase education funding and create real property tax savings for homeowners.
But revenue caps help with none of that. Instead, provisions of House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 impose a 2.5 percent cap on what cities can raise from property taxes. This “cap” would make it impossible even for cities and counties to maintain existing services — forget about things like additional police officers or new roads that growing cities need.
If the legislature insists on imposing revenue caps, it must allow exemptions for public safety, roads, and other basic priorities that the city and state share.
HB2 and SB2 have no such exclusions. Instead, just in Georgetown, these bills would create a $2.1 million budget deficit in three years, considering inflation and built-in cost drivers such as health insurance and public safety wages. And most Texas cities — including Georgetown — spend about 60 to 70 percent of their budgets on public safety. It’s impossible to absorb a $2.1 million impacting public safety.
In Georgetown, a $2.1 million deficit equates to the salaries of 27 police officers. That has life-or-death implications — without those first responders, response times go up. That endangers lives. If that sounds dramatic, imagine telling someone who has called 911 that it will be a few more minutes before an ambulance or police officer arrives.
Other basic services would also suffer — with real-life implications for how people live. A $2.1 million deficit means delaying or eliminating miles of road building and street maintenance. Worse roads mean worse traffic, which makes cities like Georgetown less attractive to people here now and the businesses or families who might want to move here. And economic development activities that support jobs, investment, local small businesses and major employers would be among the first things that get cut.
In average years, such low caps would trigger budget crises. But even in relatively good years, conservative city leaders would feel pressured to raise taxes in ways that create a cushion to protect citizens in less-prosperous times.
Even worse, to negate the damage that caps cause, Texans in every community would have to go to the polls year after year, jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction, just to protect their own communities. Such election schemes create tremendous uncertainty for Georgetown. They invite out-of-town political operatives to poison our politics, and they undermine our credit rating by making it impossible to make long-term commitments.
Cities in Texas are among the fastest growing in the country. They propel the state’s economy. State leaders often talk about the people and companies moving to Texas — cities and counties provide the basic services that allow for that growth. We’ve created a better quality of life for all of us. We’ve kept each other safe, made it easier to get around and provided the quality of life make people proud to call Georgetown home.
HB2 and SB2 would endanger all of that. Revenue caps are bad for the people of Georgetown, especially without exemptions for public safety and other necessities. Contact your legislators and state leaders — tell them public safety and basic needs must be protected.