No new symbolic Harris County property tax cuts, anyway.
Harris Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to keep the county tax rate the same this year after rejecting County Judge Robert Eckels' proposal to lower it a quarter-cent.
Eckels and county Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, who spoke in favor of the cut at the meeting, said the decrease was needed because rising home values have translated into higher tax bills for many residents.
But some commissioners said the quarter-cent cut was a meaningless decrease solely intended to curry favor with voters.
"What we need is advocacy, not playing games with our public," Commissioner El Franco Lee said.
The owner of a $100,000 home — about $36,000 below the value of the average home in the county — would have paid $2 less in taxes this year if the cut had passed, said Dick Raycraft, head of county management services.
That taxpayer, assuming he or she takes the typical 20 percent homeowner exemption, will pay $511.98, Raycraft said.
The county's rate — 63.99 cents per $100 of assessed value — has not increased since 2000, he said.
Eckels said, "I respect my colleagues and what they are looking at (tax situation), but we could have accommodated a tax cut."
Eckels couldn't find a second for his motion to make the cut.
Lee said Eckels and Bettencourt engaged in political grandstanding, and he characterized the cut as "cosmetic."
The county, he said, should not be cutting taxes when it has been forced to pick up the costs of health care, mental health and other programs funded by the state until this year.
Commissioner Sylvia Garcia said the county should keep the tax rate the same in case state lawmakers cut funding for programs even further next year.
"I think (the state lawmakers) will just send the problems back to the county," she said.
Commissioner Steve Radack said there were places in the budget that might be cut.
Eckels' predecessor, Jon Lindsay, had a core staff of 16, but Eckels has 28 full-timers, Radack said.
"It's almost insulting for them to say they were saving taxpayers all this money," Radack said of Eckels and Bettencourt. "Why else go there for something so minor except to grab headlines?"
Lee and Radack said they believe Eckels and Bettencourt were looking to score political points because each is eyeing a run for a state office.