Disagreement on who is responsible for rising property tax bills dominated the majority of Monday’s debate between Lon Shell and Colin McFerrin, who are aiming for the unexpired Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner seat.
McFerrin, a military veteran, placed the onus of rising tax bills on Hays County Commissioners, who he claimed have the power to raise or lower taxes based on viewing valuations.
“They determine the rate, which is the driver of what you’re paying in your property taxes,” McFerrin said.
Shell, who is the current Pct. 3 commissioner, said commissioners have no control over the tax rates from schools, cities and emergency service districts (ESDs), which he believes has led to rising tax bills.
“I didn’t wake up three months ago and realize I pay too much in taxes,” Shell said. “I have spent my entire adult life realizing I pay too much in taxes.”
On balancing transportation needs with protecting resources, Shell said the county should leverage its dollars with other funding sources, both at the state and federal level.
Shell said improvements to roads such as Ranch Road 12 wouldn’t exist without Hays County tax dollars, and that the state owes Hays County $133 million. Shell said payment of the $133 million could pay down the county’s debt.
McFerrin said some expansion of the county’s roads is a “waste of tax dollars.” McFerrin cited expansion of FM 150 and FM 3237, which he felt “doesn’t warrant us spending millions of dollars.” Shell said improvements in the area are meant to improve safety.
Both men disagreed on the topic of the county giving $250,000 to the Greater San Marcos Partership. Shell said the monies to go the GSMP, which helps provide jobs to the county. In turn, Shell said it takes the tax burden off of homeowners. McFerrin felt appropriating the funds goes toward the commissioners court “willy nilly” handing out money to organizations.
McFerrin said that, while the county has great roads and there is “a lot of stuff to do,” the county has to “have smart growth.
“Yes, we can have a great roads and lot of stuff to do in the county, but we have to have smart growth,” McFerrin said. “We can’t do it at the debt we have as it’s unsustainable.”
Shell said he plans to protect residents’ quality of life and natural resources, while trying to reduce the tax burden. Shell cited the county’s initiative to freeze tax rates for senior citizens.
“These are the types of things conservative leaders do in Hays County,” Shell said.