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Sullivan City Council increases property tax rate

The Sullivan City Council approved a modest tax hike last week.

During a meeting on Sept. 26, the City Council voted 3-2 to increase the property tax rate from 48.38 cents to 50 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation.

The City Council didn’t take the decision lightly, said Mayor Alma Salinas. Before the City Council voted, members spent nearly 40 minutes listening to public comments and addressing concerns.

“In our community, somebody has to make decisions,” Salinas said. “And if they gave us that responsibility, then we need to stand up to it.”

Salinas, City Councilman Rene “Cuate” Peña and City Councilman Ramon Moreno voted to increase the property tax rate. City Councilman Jaime Villarreal and City Councilman Julian Peña opposed the tax hike.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Villarreal said. “I don’t think it’s right.”

Villarreal said he was disappointed the City Council didn’t hold a budget workshop before voting on a property tax increase. He also questioned why the City Council wasn’t provided with more time to review the budget.

The average house in Sullivan City with a homestead exemption is valued at nearly $78,600 for tax purposes, according to data published by the Hidalgo County Appraisal District.

Changing the tax rate from 48.38 cents to 50 cents — an increase of 1.62 cents — will add less than $13 to the annual bill.

Many homeowners, however, are already paying significantly more in taxes because of higher property values.

In 2021, the average house in Sullivan City with a homestead exemption was valued at $70,000 for tax purposes, according to data published by the appraisal district. In 2022, the average jumped to nearly $78,600.

Taken together, the higher property values and higher property tax rate will mean significantly higher bills for some homeowners.

In 2021, the average homeowner paid nearly $340 in city property taxes. The average bill will jump to nearly $393 in 2022.

Magdalena Flores, 52, of Sullivan City, who attended the City Council meeting on Sept. 26, called the tax hike “outrageous.”

Her family has been paying property taxes for more than 30 years, Magdalena Flores said, but the city never bothered to fix the street near their house.

“They haven’t paved it. Nothing,” Magdalena Flores said. “They don’t even go cut the grass. Nothing.”

Lino Flores, 50, of Sullivan City compared the tax hike to robbery.

“Inflation is killing us,” Lino Flores said. “It’s killing everybody.”

Lino Flores said he cares for his 71-year-old mother, who survives on a fixed income.

“And all this: They’re bringing up the taxes,” Lino Flores said. “But nothing is ever provided. Nothing is ever done.”

Property taxes pay for public safety, maintenance work and parks, among other city services, Salinas said. Sullivan City is also paying more for employee health insurance and other benefits.

“We just hope that our community understands,” Salinas said. “But it really hurts when people say: ‘Oh, I don’t see anything different.’ And I’m standing here and I’m thinking: Well, you cannot make people see if they don’t want to see.”

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