The Uvalde County Fairplex was the setting on Jan. 18 for the latest Luncheon with Legislators. County Judge William Mitchell welcomed officials from seven counties to meet with their newly elected senator, Pete Flores.
Sen. Flores emphasized his goal and objective is to serve his constituency and listed his legislative priorities. Public school finance was top on his list as it has been with the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. Flores explained that school finance reform means looking at the entire method of funding, and doing away with the current system of recapture. “Our public school system should be about producing the best educated people,” said Flores. “We need your involvement in the legislative process so your voice can be heard.”
Property tax reform was also on his list of priorities, and Flores pointed out that the two items are intertwined and are typically discussed together. He emphasized the need for a fair and equitable appraisal system so homeowners are able to afford their properties and can afford to pay their property taxes. Flores said teacher pay increases along with the use of the Rainy Day Fund for Hurricane Harvey funding are also on the list of items the Senate will address this session.
Within District 19, Flores noted good roads and highways are critical. License and weight troopers will help keep roads from being torn up by increased heavy vehicle traffic. He noted the best way counties can help keep transportation needs at the top of the list and ensure that county voices are involved in transportation planning is to continue exchanging information with the Texas Department of Transportation.
During discussion, county officials pointed out that having an automatic election for surpassing the rollback tax rate will cost money the county doesn’t have to spare. Other officials pointed out the appraisal requirements mandated in last session’s budget are the property tax problem, not the rollback rate. State unfunded mandates the counties’ must pay for were discussed at length with several counties noting indigent defense costs were some of the biggest cost drivers they must contend with, along with criminal justice costs.
The next Luncheons with Legislators will be this spring in Washington County. We will share details when they are available. For more information, contact Rhita Koches.