They raised their families, worked hard (sometimes at more than one job), likely served our country in our military ranks or kept the home fires burning, paid their taxes and most often were law-abiding citizens who love God and country. They are our moms and dads, our grandparents, our elderly relatives and friends. They are our seniors.
But too often, our fast-growing patch of North Texas causes ballooning property values, which result in rising property taxes. This puts some of our Denton County seniors in danger of losing the value in their homes to high tax bills or drastic deferral options as they budget from month to month, trying to stretch Social Security checks to include food, medical care and taxes.
How can the county help?
Our concern for these seniors prompted the Denton County Commissioners Court to provide tax relief by enacting a cap on the county’s portion of their property taxes. School taxes for seniors statewide were already capped, and our two largest cities (Denton and Lewisville) had also done so. It was time for Denton County to do the same. Though the county’s portion of property tax is the smallest, the commissioners knew that every little bit helps. And it’s a tax relief that is authorized by the Texas Constitution.
What does this mean to seniors?
What this means for homeowners who are 65 or older or disabled, according to Section 1-b(h), Article VIII of the Texas Constitution and Texas Tax Code, is that their county property taxes will never go any higher than the tax bill they received earlier this year. Furthermore, for seniors living in Denton or Lewisville, their entire property tax bill is now capped so that budgeting for their golden years is easier and more consistent. This step is real tax relief for more than 42,000 Denton County home owners and can never be rescinded.
In preparation for taking this action, the commissioners researched data from a number of sources and evaluated it. Commissioner Edmondson had the county’s legal department place the senior tax ceiling resolution on the court’s agenda for May 7, and considerable discussion ensued. The following week, May 14, Judge Eads again placed it on the agenda, and after more discussion and input from various sources, including but not limited to our tax assessor/collector, the Denton County chief appraiser, and our county auditor, the commissioners unanimously approved this historic measure. If property values decrease, seniors will see a decrease in their property taxes; however, those taxes can never increase unless a substantial improvement has occurred to their property such as adding a pool or an additional room.
What is required to get the tax cap?
For seniors who currently are receiving a tax cap from their school board and/or city, no additional filing with the county is required for the county cap. However, there are many eligible senior homeowners within our county who have not yet filed this request with the County Appraisal District, including seniors who are new to Texas.
If you are 65 or disabled and have not yet requested an exemption, you may do so by visiting www.dentoncad.com or calling the Appraisal District office at 940-349-3800. It’s also important to know that your exemption (not the same as the tax ceiling) can be applied back to the two previous tax years. Finally, seniors and disabled homeowners may make quarterly property tax payments but must request that in writing and must adhere to the fixed quarterly schedule. Some of these instructions may seem confusing, so be sure to call the Appraisal District office with any questions. We want everyone eligible to take advantage of this tax relief option.
As always, your Denton County Commissioners Court will continue to provide the most services possible for the least amount of tax dollars. It is not lost on the commissioners that, while Denton is growing and we are currently in a period of additional revenue each year, we are responsible for addressing many needs of our residents. Fortunately, all the commissioners agreed that our seniors and disabled are among our highest priorities. The dramatic growth in our county is challenging, and we are constantly looking for ways to stretch your tax dollars to govern economically and effectively. However, providing tax relief to our seniors and the disabled as the Texas Constitution allows simply was the right step to take.
DIANNE EDMONDSON represents Precinct 4 on the Denton County Commissioners Court, while HUGH COLEMAN represents Precinct 1.