Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, a Democrat, wants to boost the homestead exemption for senior citizens and disabled homeowners so that they will pay less in property taxes. He believes older taxpayers and veterans deserve a break in light of the coronavirus and rising property values. The homestead exemption has not been adjusted since 2008.
Currently, those who are disabled, and those who are senior citizens (65 or older) have a property tax exemption of $160,000. Garcia want to increase that exemption to $229,000. The exemption would be on top of the standard homestead exemption of 20 percent that’s available to all homeowners. So, the homestead exemption for seniors and the disabled would be a total of $286,000.
Qualified homeowners also would pay no property taxes to the flood control district or hospital district. School taxes would remain the same.
Garcia’s proposal is a reversal from his previous stand on property taxes. Last year he supported a one-time property tax hike of 8 percent.
Garcia’s proposal is supported by fellow commissioner Rodney Ellis who is also a Democrat.
“Everyone has been hit hard economically by COVID-19 and I’d like to commend Commissioner Garcia looking into this as a potential relief opportunity for elderly, disabled, and veteran homeowners,” Ellis reportedly said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, a Republican, told the Chronicle that he welcomed Garcia’s “newfound concern” for Harris County taxpayers.
“After all, it was only seven months ago that he proposed raising county taxes by the maximum amount possible without voter approval and then berated Commissioner Radack and me when we were able to force a tax rate cut instead.”
Precinct 3’s Steve Radack, a Republican, called the proposal a “gimmick,” noting that others may have to pay more in taxes in order to keep revenues neutral.
County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat, reportedly said she had no opinion on Garcia’s plan because she had not yet reviewed it.
County Commissioners plan to take up the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.