'Yes' on 2

Appraise homesteads on actual value, not future 'potential'

Tuesday is election day and Texas is preparing for another light turnout, the usual forecast for elections which only have constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Among the Texans who do vote regularly in constitutional amendment elections, some approach ballots inclined to lean toward a "no" vote on each unless some compelling reason can be offered to vote "yes."

This time around there are compelling reasons for a "yes" vote on Amendment No. 2.

That amendment would allow for ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on its actual value.

Here's the background. Currently, an appraisal practice known as "highest and best use" comes into play. This allows taxation based on a homestead's "potential use," not necessarily on its current market value.

An example. Residences located near new commercial developments have the potential to be much more valuable than, say, an identical residence several miles away.

The Texas League of Women Voters guide notes that some homesteads have seen appraisal values rise more than 200 percent in one year because of the practice.

This amendment would change that. In the future homesteads would be taxable only on their value as a residence, regardless of what a hypothetical "highest and best use" value would be.

Proposition 2 only applies to homes used as actual primary residences, not to second homes or investments properties.

By the way, the state already protects agriculture and timber property against the highest and best use formula.

There are detailed arguments to be made but the bottom line is that it just seems more fair to appraise a homestead on what it's actually worth rather than what it might be worth, according to some formula.

We don't get to apply a formula to our tax bills and pay just the percentage someone has determined the taxing entity involved actually needs.

So, our homesteads shouldn't be appraised that way.—M.B.

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2009-10-29 digital edition

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