Pharr increases property tax rate

PHARR — City commissioners on Thursday voted to raise property taxes by about 11% in order to pay for infrastructure upgrades across the city, specifically for drainage improvements.

Pharr City Manager Alex Meade said the average home in Pharr costs roughly $88,000, which would cost that median homeowner about $48 more annually.

“If we don’t raise the taxes, we will not be able to address the infrastructure needs that we have,” Commissioner Ramiro Caballero said.

“Us coming together as a community,” Commissioner Itza Flores said.

“Less than a Netflix account,” Meade said of the average Pharr homeowner paying around $50 annually after the 11% property tax bump. “People spend more on hot Cheetos.”

The tax increase echoed other nearby cities that either have increased property taxes or are about to, as the new fiscal year is about to begin in October. Mission is looking to raise taxes by 3.5 cents and McAllen is likely to increase the property tax rate by about 1.6 cents per $100 in taxable valuation, which would cost the average homeowner about $20 more annually.

The McAllen tax increase is to pay for bonds stemming from a $25 million bond election that McAllen voters approved in 2018 for drainage and traffic improvements. Pharr’s tax increase will also specifically pay for infrastructure improvements, Meade said.

The move comes a month after Pharr commissioners voted not to hold a bond election in November, something other cities in South Texas — such as Weslaco and McAllen — have done to aggressively improve drainage. Pharr commissioners discussed their decision not to hold a bond election in private, but during a public meeting on Thursday when they voted to increase taxes, the commissioners all defended the raise before they voted unanimously in favor of the tax increase.

Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

The millions of dollars of drainage projects will “enhance quality of life,” Flores said. “This is what our citizens need.”

“In order to resolve the issue, it’s going to take the whole city to be involved,” Commissioners Eleazar Guajardo said. “Up to $40 million is needed to prevent catastrophic events. That is the main reason why this is necessary at this time.”

Commissioner Ricardo Medina, however, said the tax increase would not last forever.

“It’s going to be a point where will lower our taxes again,” he said.