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Houston mayor suggests property tax increase to help pay for new $1.3B firefighter deal

Mayor John Whitmire is proposing a possible tax hike because the city needs to figure out how to pay for a $1.3 billion deal he made with Houston firefighters to give them raises.

His proposed plan could add $15 a month to property taxes for Houston homeowners. But, it will need voter approval first, according to a report from our partners at the Chron.

In a conversation between Whitmire and former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Wednesday night, Whitmire said “everything is on the table” to pay for it.

As the city reached a deal with the City of Houston firefighters, it was revealed that it would cost taxpayers $1.3 billion for the next two decades.

Since the agreement to give firefighters raises was reached last month, that’s been the big question — How are we going to pay for it?

Whitmire threw out a few funding options during the discussion.

One of them was a possible garbage fee. The mayor said Houston is the only major city in Texas that doesn’t have one.

He also suggested a property tax increase, something Houston hasn’t seen in nearly two decades. The mayor said the public could “make an exception for public safety” when it comes to the revenue cap.

Mayor John Whitmire was in a heated debate with council members after promising the Houston Fire Department back pay and raises, which comes with a billion-dollar price tag.

The cap currently limits the amount of money the city can collect in property taxes every year.

“Be honest with the people, transparent, ultimately, the public will make that decision but — a projected increase in revenue cap for public safety,” Whitmire said. “It would be $15 a month to have the response time for fire and police that I think a safe city needs.”

Only voters can decide whether to remove or raise the city’s revenue cap, which was put into place 20 years ago in 2004.

The city didn’t reach the cap until 2014, but it has reduced the property tax rate nine times in the 10 years to keep from exceeding the limit.