The San Saba Property Owners Association began its 38th year of service to taxpayers of San Saba County with election of officers at its August 26, 2008 Meeting. Harold Yates was elected President, Keith Shahan Vice President and Clovia Ketchum Secretary Treasurer. The purpose of the Property Owners Association is to provide a forum for the presentation of issues that are important to city and rural citizens of San Saba County.
The program for the meeting featured Mr. Randy Henderson, Director of the San Saba Central Appraisal District. Mr. Henderson’s Office appraises taxable property or inventory values and collects consolidated tax statements for San Saba County cities, water districts, school districts and the county government. These taxing entities individually set their own tax rates based upon budget requirements to satisfy voter and state requirements. Mr. Henderson reported on the continued explosive growth in rural property values and non-county resident ownership of real estate and construction material quarry industries. Growth in these areas last year added over one new weekend home a week, miles of high fence and four new or expanded quarries trucking stone to processing and resale facilities in other counties. Within San Saba, retail store and historic renovations plus pecan processing projects occurred. In total, San Saba County increased its taxable valuation by ten million dollars.
Rural property values approaching three thousand dollars an acre have increased county-wide market valuation to over 1.3 billion dollars with over 70 percent of property ownership lying with non-resident owners. Conflicting with this trend is the fact that of the county’s 4.6 million dollars in property tax receipts, only 2.1 million dollars or 45% are paid by non-resident owners. Unlike school districts that grant homestead exemptions to residents, the county has no residence-based exemptions. Mr. Henderson reported on studies done by the Appraisal District that could share the cost of providing county services more evenly to non-resident owners by granting various exemptions to resident property owners for future tax increases. San Saba County Commissions will be discussing these studies and possibilities at Budget Hearings to be held September 15, 19 and 25th.
Mr. Henderson updated the Property Owners Association on the Central Appraisal District’s successful protest to reverse a state requested increase in San Saba agricultural property tax valuations. With over 95 % of county rural land valued for agricultural land use based upon calculation formulas determining taxable income from various farming or ranching operations less expenses, the state had requested a 37% increase in valuation and, assuming flat tax rates, corresponding increases in property tax collections. The Central Appraisal District has completed a successful protest to maintain the average land use value limitation for cattle ranching on native pastures at $70 an acre. This discussion included the fact that the number of county acres being taken out of agricultural use and dedicated to wildlife is rapidly increasing. Wildlife land use tax valuations are set by state law at the agricultural land use level. County wide and as ownership shifts to non-residents, more land is being taken out of agricultural use and being dedicated to wildlife where expenses for oversight, feed and transportation are less while leasing fees offer greater returns. POA members were advised there are requirements that must be met to qualify for the two different land use tax exemptions.
San Saba population aging resulting from the continued exodus of young families and the impact on real estate prices for working family homes and school tax revenues were discussed. The average home in San Saba is valued for tax purposes at 41 thousand dollars. This value has remained fairly flat in recent years as the family age population declines due to better wages and economic opportunities in the larger communities within 50-100 miles. In these communities, teacher, non-state government workers, law enforcement, food and service industry worker wages typically average double those available in San Saba. This continued trend has been reflected in school enrollment which has steadily declined over recent years. From 2008 to 2009, county wide student enrollment declined 6% from 1034 to 969 students. At the same time, state payments based upon the number of enrolled students has gone down, school districts have experienced state mandated curriculum additions and reductions in school tax rates for property owners. These issues will be discussed further at future property ownership meetings.
Membership in the Property Owners Association is $ 10.00 a year. Membership is open to taxpayers within the cities of San Saba, Richland Springs and unincorporated cities or rural areas. The next meeting will be September 23, 2008 in the Rylander Library at 7:00 PM. The Property Owners Association invites all interested taxpayers to attend.