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NEW BOSTON, Texas — After spending a month and three meetings to consider a proposed optional higher cap placed on property tax rates, Bowie County Commissioners approved having the optional rate available to them Monday.

The court, in a 3 to 1 vote, agreed to have a proposed optional property tax rate cap of 8% available — if it ever becomes necessary — to potentially replace the state's current 3.5% property tax rate cap.

Bowie County Judge Bobby Howell stressed that this measure isn't at all a property tax increase of any kind.

"This isn't a vote to raise property taxes at all," Howell said during the Monday meeting. "This (new proposed property tax rate cap) is only an option we will have available to us, in case we need to raise the tax rate."

The Austin-based County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas recently submitted a report from their General Counsel, which attributes the need for a potential higher property tax rate cap option to the possible need for more money — owing to the threat of a financial fallout related to the continuing and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"The COVID-19 epidemic struck, essentially halting all economic and governmental activity for two months," the report states. "Sales tax revenues have plummeted. The specter of another wave of coronavirus and its effects on revenues and expenditures clouds the horizon for next year. With no commitment for additional state or federal assistance, counties must craft a budget and tax rate, that can survive the tests."

The report states that "counties are strenuously attempting to hold expenditure to the absolute minimum, to reduce the burden on their taxpayers." However, the report goes on to add that "reductions in other revenues ( such as sales taxes, fines and fees) may compel a greater reliance on property taxes."

In other business, commissioners appointed DeKalb resident Vincent Nelson to replace Paul Brantly on the county's Emergency Services District 6. Brantly resigned July 9. Nelson will serve the remainder of the vacated term, which will end Dec. 31, 2020.

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