By Mark Archibald — Corsicana Daily Sun
July 16, 2019
Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell wrapped up the Texas Legislature’s eighty-sixth session before taking questions from the audience during the Navarro County Republicans’ quarterly meeting July 9.
Birdwell credited legislators for reducing the roll back tax rate for the first ti,me since 1981. Reducing the roll back tax rate, now called the ‘voter approval tax rate’, means property owners will see relief on their tax bill. In a chart provided, Birdwell showed the savings from a median home priced at $187,392 would be $735 to $1,066. These changes will take effect in 2020.
According to Birdwell, the Senate placed more power in the hands of the people and increased the accountability of local authorities by passing Senate Bill 2. The bill allows cities and counties to deduct the cost of indigent care and defense before calculating the effective tax rate, which will now be known as the ‘no new revenue rate.’ “Voters will have a say in their tax rates,” Birdwell said.
Questions will be asked on November ballots, which generally have the highest turn out of any other election.
Provisions in the bill mandate that Independent School Districts must first conduct an efficiency audit before seeking an increase from the voters above the 2.5 percent rate. City and counties with a population greater than 30,000 will see their rate reduced from 8 percent to 3.5 percent.
Other taxing bodies including hospitals, community colleges, special utilities, and libraries will see no reduction from tge current 8 percent they can levy. Municipal management entities will also remain at 8 percent until the project has reached the threshold of 95 percent build out. At that time, the tax rate reverts to 3.5 percent. Property owners will have greater opportunity to appeal their property’s appraised value following the passage of SB-2.
Birdwell also touched on legislation dealing with school financing and safety. The school safety bill, which was co-sponsored in the House by Cody Harris — who represents House District 8 including Hill, Anderson, Freestone, and Navarro Counties — provided a one-time grant for school hardening, something Birdwell said was a priority following the school shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
Corsicana ISD Superintendent Diane Frost noted that they were ahead of the curve on many of the provisions of the school safety bill, during the Corsicana Board of Trustees June meeting.
Birdwell talked about retired teachers. The state will contribute #1.113 bllion to the teachers’ pension fund within the next five years. All current retirees will receive a check from the state capped at $2,000. Birdwell said there is no cost of living increase anticipated. “This was the only way we could make the teachers’ retirement system sound,” he said.
Birdwell discussed the right to life bill, the first amendment and religious liberty bills, as well as natural resources and economic development legislation. He also highlighted his work on the sunset commission, and the Battleship Texas Workgroup.
The Geanbury Republican announced he will seek re-election to State Senate District 22 next year. The retired Army Lieutenant Colonel said that, excluding immigration, he considers maintaining Texas values to be one of the biggest challenges facing the state in the coming years. “We welcome people from other states, but they ought to know why they are coming here,” he said.
Before discussing regular business, local Republicans acknowledged the recent passing of United States Air Force Col. Keith Burres (Ret.). Burres was an election judge, precinct chair, and served as Vice Chairman of the Navarro County Republicans for a time. He will be greatly missed by many.
Navarro County Republican Chairman Eric Meyers said, “Winning Texas is going to be a battle next year and in the future. We are going to have to work to keep Navarro County and Texas Red.”
The Chairman announced that the first day to sign up to be precinct chair is September 10. The first day for candidates to file will be November 9. “Notaries will be available and lunch will be provided,” Meyers said.
The next regular meeting of the Navarro County Republican Party is scheduled for October 8. Meetings are held at Republican Headquarters 111-B West Third Avenue in Corsicana.