After my post about parks, many people have written and asked if I could answer some questions on our local taxes. Since this kind of topic gets a little confusing, I’ll cover it over a few different posts.
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Here’s an example from viewer mail:
“Hey Mark. Does Amarillo have the second lowest tax rate or third highest in Texas”
The answer: it’s still pretty low, relative to whatever you’re trying to use as a comparison.
Wow. Thanks a lot, me. That’s a terrible answer.
Let’s go a little deeper into this. There are a few other taxing ‘entities’ around that determine how much you have to pony up for living and working and watching Netflix ALL THE TIME in our garden spot of the world. Let’s simplify and talk just about what the City of Amarillo does.
The city has three ways of making revenue (people in ties call these revenue streams): sales tax, property tax, and fees. You could argue there’s a fourth, and that is the non-fungible value of tears and blood shed by volunteers, but, hey, precious bodily fluids aren’t worth what they once were.
So let’s talk about property tax first. I’ll talk about sales tax later.
The city of Amarillo’s current property tax rate is 0.396810 on $100 of property value. (You can find the tax rate here at the Potter-Randall Appraisal District or here at state’s comptroller website.) And yes, if you rent, you pay too. Landlords pass the cost to you, dear chums.
How does this property tax rate measure up to other Texas comparable cities? Comparable is a tricky word. I’ll use it to mean size, and I’ll use population, not land area, to determine size.
Worldpopulationreview puts Amarillo at 16th place for population, right at 199,747 people for 2021. I took the handful of cities below and above 16th place, snagged their property tax rates from the Texas comptroller, and made this fancy chart:
All right, pups. So what’s the conclusion? Amarillo does indeed have the second lowest property tax rate in the state when you compare us to cities of relative comparable size. Math class isn’t so hard after all.
Okay, okay, okay. I can already hear some of you chuckleheads crying that I’m not adding in water, sewer, drainage, or other fees. You know what? You’re right. I want to start simply and just talk about property tax in this post. Let’s set a baseline, man. When you don’t, that’s when all the lying happens.
The important question is this: so what? Is this something we should put on t-shirts? We have the second-lowest property tax rates. Woo hoo.
The real conversation is what we do with the tax money. That’s the important part, so we should really talk about it
When I was a kid I heard this joke about taxes. It’s a fill-in-the-blank or Aggie joke. Here goes:
An [Aggie, guy in blue shorts, alien from Neptune] is buying diapers. The checkout person says, “That’ll be $5.35.”
Aggie: “I thought it was $5!”
Cashier: “Yes, but this includes tax.”
Aggie: “Forget that. I’ll just use safety pins instead.”
Ha ha. Sticking a baby with tacks is hilarious. Wait a minute. Is that a metaphor?