Preliminary estimates of property values in the area indicate modest growth as taxing entities enter budget-writing season and set tax rates to support those annual spending plans.

Those local elected officials also are listening to the daily din from lawmakers in Austin, where an anticipated rewrite of property tax and school finance laws could affect budgets in unforeseen ways.

“Austin is getting back to wanting to centralize power and not wanting to leave local control in local districts,” Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said, referring specifically to the tax growth cap in House Bill 2, which would trigger automatic tax recall elections if one year’s revenue is 3.5 percent larger than in the previous year.

“You ask them to limit their (state) revenue, and they will tell you, ‘We can’t do that,’ “ Stoudt said. “That’s the hypocrisy of it all.”

Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune reported Tuesday afternoon that the chairman of the House Education Committee has tabled until 2021 a proposal to raise the sales tax by a penny and use that money to lower school property taxes — virtually killing a chance to rein in what’s typically the highest tax rate a property owner faces.

County appraisal districts sent their 2019 preliminary property value estimates to cities, schools, counties and other area taxing entities last week. The estimates will undergo review and protest until mid-July when they will be finalized, or certified, and taxing entities will then set their tax rates.

A nearly 2.75 percent overall rise in Gregg County values reflects slow commercial growth in all sectors, including a modest bump in mineral activity, the preliminary estimates show.

The estimates for Gregg County reflect that not all oil and gas activity has shifted to West Texas.

“We’ve got three new wells,” Chief Appraiser Libby Neely said. “LISD got one of them, and Lakeport got the other ones — a portion of them. That’s probably what’s making the increase in Longview schools.”

Values in Longview ISD are up $228 million at an estimated $4.6 billion.

“But on the whole, things are looking pretty good,” Neely said. “I think we’re definitely seeing some better days in our market as far as construction and commercial construction and the number of sales. We never did have the bad dips, the roller coaster rides that a lot of the cities have had. But it’s good to see some sunshine on the horizon. That’s pretty good.”

Stoudt reflected on that steady growth rate. The tax cap in House Bill 2 is meant to curb taxes in urban areas that are seeing vastly different increases in property values.

“A $250,000 house in Houston, its value could be raised $50,000 in one year, and that’s driving that (bill),” he said. “That’s just not the case in rural areas.”

The value of all property in Gregg County is estimated for the 2019 tax year at slightly more than $9 billion. It was $8.77 billion last year.

“One of the things that’s been beneficial for Gregg County is that we’ve had moderate growth, but it’s been steady,” Stoudt said. “We had nice, moderate, slow growth, and I think the census is going to show slow, modest population growth. And we’ve had five years of good unemployment numbers. So, our slow growth is matching our unemployment rate, and that’s why it’s low. Right now, it’s 3.8 percent, because we’ve got people looking for jobs, and we can fill those niches.”

Upshur CountyUpshur County Judge Todd Tefteller reported his county’s property value of $1.62 billion is maybe up slightly from last year, but he added the estimates are “very, very, very preliminary.”

“We’re pretty similar to where we were last year,” he said.

Tefteller said no one property sector stood out with either a spike or a plunge.

“They were all really level and just crept up slightly overall,” he said.

Harrison CountyThe estimated taxable value of all property in Harrison County is $6.2 billion, with Marshall coming in slightly more than $1 billion, at $1,011,976,750.

Property in Hallsville is estimated at $233.7 million, and the Harrison County portion of Longview is estimated to be worth $292.4 million.

Waskom values are estimated at $193 million.

Panola CountyProperty in Panola County saw the biggest increase from last year’s estimates, at slightly less than 16 percent.

Overall values there are estimated at $3.48 billion. Last year’s estimated countywide value was a flat $3 billion.

Property in Carthage also rose in value, from $422 million last year to almost $447 million in this year’s estimate. Tatum values rose slightly, from almost $4.9 million last year to $4.95 million this year.

The Panola College taxing district rose in value, from $3 billion last year to $3.49 billion this year.

Preliminary property values for Rusk County were unavailable.