Op-Ed by Delia Parker-Mims – Democratic Candidate for Denton County Commissioner 3
Denton County’s property tax abatement process should sustain existing small businesses’ and prevent homeowners from paying higher taxes
As an attorney who’s also trained in economics, I support developing a well-planned economic growth policy for Denton County that would sustain existing small businesses’ viability and recover returns from property tax abatements, so homeowners don’t pay for business development.
The Denton County Commissioners use property tax abatements — reductions in the taxes an entity pays to the government — to attract new businesses. While property tax abatements theoretically stimulate economic growth and produce new jobs, problems arise when the granting of these abatements is not well planned.
Small businesses are the economy’s backbone.
It’s imperative that Denton County form a transparent, comprehensive property tax abatement procedure that sustains existing small businesses and protects homeowners from paying higher taxes. Texas homeowners already pay a property tax rate of 1.83%, the sixth highest in the nation.
First, transparency should be present — the commissioners should publish a list of requests and awards. Transparency would provide data to governments, universities, and other researchers that could determine whether property tax abatements are effective. Sometimes, abatements are provided to businesses that close before the county can recover a return on investment and homeowners are forced to make up the difference.
Another important aspect to consider is whether or not prospective businesses will benefit the community by employing local staff who have livable wages and health care. If they don’t plan to provide these benefits, the county should consider denying those prospective businesses since homeowners who pay property taxes would not have employment opportunities and may have to pick up the tab when the prospective businesses’ staffs need help.
Third, before Denton County Commissioners award property tax abatements, they should assess how new businesses would compete with local businesses.
For example, we do not need a national chain like Starbucks competing in the Old Town District when we already have The Perc Coffeehouse as it would probably suffer lower profits. On the contrary, businesses which distribute to national and international markets can complement existing businesses and enhance economic growth. As an example, a coffee bean manufacturer or supplier would complement a local business such as Perc and both entities could receive benefits.
Finally, Denton County Commissioners should involve tax administrators and other stakeholders in decisions to grant incentives for new businesses like tax abatements. Doing so would eliminate the ability of grantors to politicize such incentives and of grantees to call in political favors, thereby prioritizing community interests.
Delia Parker-Mims is an SMU attorney trained in economics. She has spent the last 25 years representing battered women, advocating for mentally-ill juveniles, and assisting seniors. Delia’s broad experience, combined with her passion for empowering the community, will make her an excellent County Commissioner.