Recent Texas Attorney General Opinions of Interest to Cities

Note:  Included opinions are from September 11, 2018 through October 10, 2018.

KP-0215 (Homestead Property Tax Exemption): Subsection 11.13(n) of the Tax Code provides that if a municipality adopts a tax exemption percentage that produces an exemption of less than $5,000 when applied to a particular residence homestead, the individual is entitled to an exemption of $5,000 of the appraised value. Because Article VIII, Section 1-b(e) of the Texas Constitution and the legislature establish a legislatively-defined floor for the exemption in an amount of $5,000, a court would likely conclude that a home-rule city lacks authority to increase the floor above $5,000. Cities desiring to increase the homestead exemption must do so by raising the tax exemption percentage, up to twenty percent, as authorized in the Constitution.

The legislature charged the chief appraiser with determining an individual’s right to a property tax exemption, and the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation prohibits appraisers from engaging in an official act that violates the law. If a taxing unit adopts an unlawful exemption, the appraiser maintains both a legal and ethical duty to determine that the exemption is inapplicable to the extent it violates the law.

KP-0214 (Health Insurance Benefits): If a surviving spouse meets the eligibility requirements under Subsection 615.072(a) of the Government Code, a court would likely conclude the spouse is entitled to purchase health insurance benefits from the city that employed a part-time safety employee pursuant to Subsection 615.073(b), regardless of whether the employee was eligible for the benefits prior to death.