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Experts say tax break for veterans poses unintended consequences

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Dec 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 09:38:42-05

BELL COUNTY, TX — A study analyzing the city of Killeen’s continuous growth aims to highlight the future projections for the city’s sustainability. But experts warn that property tax exemptions for 100 percent disabled veterans will be unsustainable in years to come.

“In 2009, the voters of Texas were presented with a ballot item by the state legislature that asked if they wanted to grant 100% property tax exemption to 100% disabled veterans,” said Hilary Shine, Killeen’s Executive Director of Communications.

The ballot question passed overwhelmingly. But ten years later, some say it is having an unintended consequence.

“The intention is absolutely good and the city of Killeen is in support of the state of Texas granting benefits to veterans. But the benefits they are granting are being shouldered by the taxpayers in the communities where veterans live,” said Shine.

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The total annual loss for the city rings up to $6.5 million. The impact on Killeen is twenty times the state average, which is 0.59 percent across Texas. Killeen’s total impact is 11.3%.

“It really affects the local communities where there is a heavy population of military retirees and veterans, with a bunch that are 100% disabled because their tax revenue goes down and they can’t provide the services they want to their citizens,” said Dennis Webster, veteran.

City leaders previously went to the legislature to make their case.

“The state did give more money to disproportionately impact payment that qualifies the city of Killeen, Copperas Cove, the counties of Bell and Coryell for some reimbursement of the loss that’s been granted however it doesn’t fully reimburse, it makes up about half,” said Shine.

But Shine say it’s not enough. Killeen veteran exemptions are growing more than 20 percent every year.

Other cities are disproportionately impacted, as well, that are not benefitting from the reimbursement legislation.

“The original legislation did not take into account the communities that do not touch the borders of a military installation,” said Jerry Bark, Public Relations Director, Harker Heights.

Harker Heights lost 2.1 million in fiscal year 2019/2020, which is a 27 percent increase from the previous year.

“The City’s objective is to share the burden of honoring those 100% veteran exemptions across the State and it is not to reduce or remove those benefits.”

This sentiment was echoed by Killeen city staff.

“The state of Texas needs to step in and honor the promise they made to those veterans more equitably across the state rather than leaving these military communities disproportionately impacted,” said Shine.