County officials skeptical of tax discount

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, September 15, 2018

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County commissioners tossed around the idea of a 3-2-1 tax discount at Monday’s meeting, but decided more information is needed before giving it a yea or nay.

Citizen Lee Worley of Boyd asked commissioners to consider the discount at a recent public hearing about the tax rate. As outlined in the Texas Tax Code, taxpayers would receive a 3 percent discount if the tax is paid in October, a 2 percent discount if it’s paid in November and a 1 percent discount if it’s paid in December.

Wise County Tax Assessor/Collector Monte Shaw said he called several tax offices around the state, and most counties no longer offer it because it makes budget planning more difficult.

“You never really know how much money you’re going to be losing from people paying early,” Shaw said.

Based on when Wise County citizens paid taxes for this fiscal year, the county would have lost $165,000 to $170,000. In 2015, the county would have lost $252,000.

Shaw reminded commissioners this was a baseline. If a discount was offered, there would likely be more taxpayers that paid their bill before Jan. 1, resulting in a greater loss to the county.

According to Shaw, the taxpayer savings, on a $170,000 home (the average value in Wise County), would be $18 if the tax bill is paid in October. If it’s paid in November, the savings would be $12 and $6 if paid in December.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White said it doesn’t seem worth it when you consider the unknown loss to the county compared to the small amount of money people will be saving.

“I can’t see where that $18 is much of a savings,” he said.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy asked if there was an advantage to the program for the county.

“The only thing I could see is you would get your money earlier if people take advantage of it,” Shaw said. “Other than that, I don’t know of an advantage to the county.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said if the county didn’t have reserve funds, a discount program would be important to help cover the first few months of the fiscal year – October, November, December.

Wise County offered a 3-2-1 discount at one time, but it was stopped in the late 1990s or early 2000s. No one at the meeting had documentation with them.

Burns said he’d like to see historical data from the time period when the discount was in place.

“I would think we need to do that because if 75 percent of people take advantage of it, it would certainly skew our budget, and we would have to go into reserves to make that up,” he said.

County Judge J.D. Clark said he’d like to see if there’s discussion in commissioners’ meeting minutes about why it was ended.

Kennedy said he liked the idea of the system and thought it would help taxpayers.

“I see the taxpayer advantage, but we need a full picture of how it worked before, why it was ended and when it was ended,” Clark said. “I’d like to get more information about how it will affect the budget.”

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