Happy days are here again?
Reports this week that property values all over Tarrant County are up — posting the largest year-over-year gain since the 2008 recession — have renewed optimism that the economic recovery is finally hitting its stride in North Texas.
Overall, Tarrant County properties were valued at $135.6 billion, up 5.3 percent over the previous year, a rise in net taxable value of nearly $6.8 billion.
The gains, thanks to new construction and increased prices of commercial and residential properties, are particularly rosy in communities such as Southlake, Crowley and Keller, all of which got significant boosts.
Since municipalities and school districts use the tax data to determine their annual budgets, the soaring values will also mean more revenue with which taxing entities can cushion their often tight spending plans.
Fort Worth, for example, saw a 5.8 percent jump in values and should bring in about $22 million more in property taxes in 2015 than it did this year, when the increase was only $2.5 million.
That additional revenue will be a shot in the arm for the city’s budget, which has suffered from shortfalls since 2008 and is struggling to manage area growth and development while meeting the ever-increasing needs of a diverse and expanding population.
City staff will present the coming year’s budget to the City Council on Aug. 12, and the proposal is expected to face a council vote the following month.
But even as the numbers anticipate continued economic growth, cities and school districts should exercise caution when setting their budgets. The national and local unemployment rate is still higher than average, and times are still financially difficult for many Americans — including many in North Texas.
While some taxing entities have already completed their budget sessions, those that haven’t would be wise to proceed carefully, at least until there is confirmation that these happy days are a trend and not just a mood swing.