Property taxes and the real estate market

The good news is that home prices in the neighborhood look like they’ve reached bottom, according to several real estate types I’ve talked to this week. The other good news? Our housing bust, as bad as it has been, hasn’t been nearly as bad as that in the rest of the country.

The bad news? Recovery may take another two or three years — and, says, Jim Gaines, PhD, a research economist at Texas A&M’s Real Estate Center, recovery doesn’t mean the prices that we saw at the peak of the boom. Rather, it means returning to the home values of 2004 and 2005, before the boom started.

And the other bad news? City officials are going to have to figure out a way to make ends meet under those conditions. That means more budget cutting, even after the real estate market returns to normal, given that the property tax accounts for about 43 percent of the city’s revenue. So, unless the people downtown can figure out a way to do more with less (something they have not shown any ability to do) or find more programs to cut (and there isn’t much left to cut), we’re looking at the possibility of regular property tax rate increases.

Yes, Gaines’ assessment is quite gloomy — and surprising, actually, given that the city manager and Mayor Park Cities have assured us that last summer’s budget woes were not necessarily permanent, and would melt away in the “Decade of Dallas.” That’s something to keep in mind when Leppert — or any other establishment candidate — starts waxing poetic about revenue in the runup to this spring’s council elections.


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