AUSTIN— On Aug. 9, Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened in a property tax lawsuit against Dumas Independent School District, stating that the district violated state law and the Texas Constitution when it reduced the district’s local option homestead exemption.
Paxton filed similar interventions against the White Deer and Kilgore Independent School Districts in September 2016.
The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 1 in May 2015 with near universal support—138 votes in the House (with no votes against) and 25 in the Senate.
That same year, 86 percent of voters ratified the amendment—one of the highest amendment margins in recent history. The law provided a much needed property tax reduction to homesteaders in Texas with no downside to school districts since the Legislature paid for the tax breaks in the state budget.
Still, school districts such as Dumas Independent School District chose to reduce or repeal their local option homestead exemption and assess homeowners a tax rate that is in violation of the law, a press release states.
“The school district is taking Texas homeowners’ hard-earned money in violation of Texas law,” Paxton said. “I am confident that the local taxpayers and the State will prevail in this lawsuit and the suits to come. You cannot pick and choose when it comes to following the law.”
Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), who authored the bill, has previously said: “SB 1 clearly stated that the tax relief approved in the 84th Legislative session was over and above any local option homestead exemption. Implementation of the law needs to be uniformly enforced across the state.”
In addition to Dumas, Kilgore, and White Deer school districts, 17 other school districts reduced or repealed their local option homestead exemptions in 2015; Bridge City, Broaddus, Christoval, Daingerfield-Lone Star, Excelsior, Groesbeck, Gruver, Hardin-Jefferson, High Island, Kountze, Lexington, Mount Pleasant, Riviera, Shepherd, Spurger, Veribest, and Winfield.