Perception of unfairness in taxation
Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:57 a.m.
There will always be some perception of unfairness in taxation. However, I believe the duty of local government is to use property taxes in what would be perceived as fair by the majority of taxpayers.
This leads me to the road and bridge tax that appears on every Victoria County property tax bill. It does not get much attention because it is small compared to school, city, county and junior college taxes.
The road and bridge tax is used to fix county roads and bridges. Victoria County presently defines county roads as all public roads outside the city of Victoria. The county does not spend road and bridge taxes inside the city of Victoria. In Victoria County, according to county officials, almost four out of five people live in the city of Victoria. In other words, four out of five people in the county pay for the roads of the one out of five who lives outside the city.
I brought this to the attention of the Victoria County Commissioners Court. At present, there are four road and bridge districts identical to the commissioners' districts. I suggested there should be one district for the city of Victoria and one for outside the city. The city district would not tax its residents since they did not receive any road and bridge money for their streets. The district outside the city would have to tax at a rate about five times higher than it does now for it residents to maintain the service they presently have.
County Judge Donald Pozzi informed me that state law set the districts, and I would need to speak with my local state representative. So, I have now requested a meeting with Geanie Morrison. I spoke with Pozzi, who then asked if I had children in school, to which I answered, "No." To this he said, "But you pay school tax." I informed him these were not the same things. The judge then asked, "Well, do you use county roads?" I told him I very rarely do, and I would think county residents use city roads more than city residents use county roads.
I did some investigating and found Texas statutes that specifically address county roads and the road and bridge tax. According to transportation code, all public roads in a county, even those inside an incorporated city, are county roads. The county may spend money on roads inside the city, as stated in section 251.012-County Authority in Municipality.
I spoke with the Victoria County Commissioners Court again. I informed them of this Texas law. They can spend money inside the city of Victoria. I then posed this question: If the school district spent all its money on 20 percent of the students and facilities in the outer parts of the district, how would the people in the district react? And to the question "Do I use Victoria county roads?" - I should have responded, "I drive on county roads that are inside the city of Victoria." I then said to the commissioners, "Five people pay for a ham and sit down to the table, and only one gets to eat it." If road and bridge tax is charged to Victoria city residents, then the city should receive a fair share of that money.
My hope is that city residents will contact Victoria County Judge Donald Pozzi and the Victoria County commissioners and ask them to fix our city streets. They won't contribute to fixing Victoria city streets or stop taxing city residents unless they are pressured to do so. Also, some glaze for the ham: The county takes money from its general fund to fix roads outside the city.
If this is what Victoria County does with the road and bridge tax, how equitable is the county tax? Judge Pozzi and Victoria County commissioners, I am a Victoria County resident. I expect fairness in taxation.
Mark Loffgren is a retired operations leader with H-E-B Plus!, where he was employed for almost 25 years. He has been a resident of Victoria for 28 years. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.