The Lampasas City Council may vote Monday about whether to cap property taxes for residents age 65 and older.
An action item is on the agenda for the council's upcoming meeting, which is open to the public. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, 405 S. Main St. behind City Hall.
Discussed by the City Council in a workshop session May 28, a tax cap for senior citizens would freeze tax bills for property owners 65 and older at the amount levied in the year the ceiling is enacted. If a property owner’s 2013 city taxes are $500, for example, and a freeze were instituted this year, the bill would remain $500 each subsequent year, regardless of the Lampasas tax rate or property valuations.
When a tax ceiling is in place, senior citizens’ tax bills would increase only if those property owners do substantial remodeling or building additions, city officials said.
Councilman Christian Toups, who proposed the tax ceiling, has said such a policy would benefit senior citizens and attract growth to Lampasas.
Some council members, however, including Robert McCauley and Mayor Jerry Grayson, have expressed concerns that limiting the growth in city tax revenue would require Lampasas to raise its tax rate -- which would increase tax bills for property owners younger than 65. McCauley, the council member who has voiced the strongest opposition to the proposed tax freeze, also said he doubts it would promote growth in the city.
Based on increases in tax rates and property values from 2006-2013, Lampasas would have foregone $71,000 in tax revenue if a senior-citizen tax freeze had been in effect during that time, City Manager Finley deGraffenried said, citing statistics from the Lampasas Central Appraisal District.
"There are some variations [in tax rates and property values] from year to year, but it's the best information we have," deGraffenried said of the appraisal district figures. "Is it 100 percent accurate in predicting the future? No. But it does paint a picture."
The city manager said municipal staff will not make a definitive recommendation to the City Council for or against a senior tax freeze.
Lampasas Independent School District taxes already are frozen for people age 65 or older.
Earlier this year, the Lampasas County Commissioners Court discussed whether to freeze seniors’ taxes. County officials have not decided what to do about the tax proposal, but the Commissioners Court is scheduled to discuss the option of a senior-citizen tax freeze when it meets Monday. The court's session, open to the public, will begin at 9 a.m. in the first-floor courtroom in the county courthouse.
The city of Lampasas gives residents 65 and older an exemption of $15,000 off their homestead’s taxable value. County and Lampasas ISD exemptions for senior citizens are $15,000 and $25,000, respectively.
City taxes are the lowest portion of Lampasas property owners’ bills, and Lampasas Independent School District taxes represent most of what city property owners owe. Lampasas ISD’s current tax rate of $1.46 per $100 property valuation is more than $1 higher per $100 than the city tax rate. The total county rate is more than 22 cents above the city rate.
When a tax freeze was first proposed, deGraffenried said he believes the City Council members who are 65 or older are allowed to vote about the tax proposal. The city manager said he does not think that would constitute a conflict of interest.