ERIC YOLLICK, The Golden Hammer
Conroe, May 5 – Many readers of The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, have complained through the tipline and on social media about how high their motor vehicle registration and inspection fees have become. Montgomery County residents, like most taxpayers in Texas, are subject to another tax besides the always-rising property taxes.
Under the Texas Transportation Code, Section 502.401, the County Commissioners Court has the right, but not the requirement, to impose an additional fee, not to exceed $10, for registering a vehicle in the county. The fee shows up in the Montgomery County Budget in a rather sneaky way.
The Texas Department of Transportation explains what it refers to as the “local fee”:
“The local fee is comprised of one or more fees assessed by your County of registration. Local fees vary from county to county and are established by County Commissioner’s Courts…All counties may charge a fee of up to $10 for deposit into their county road and bridge fund.”
As you might expect in Montgomery County where high taxes are a priority of the Commissioners Court, County Judge Craig Doyal, and Commissioners Mike Meador, Charlie Riley, James Noack, and Jim Clark levy the maximum allowable fee of $10 per vehicle registration. It’s a regressive tax, because it’s the same amount of fee whether you’re registering a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme or a 2017 Jaguar XJ6.
They also play games with this line item in the County Budget.
Under revenues, the County Judge and County Commissioners show account 434151, Supplemental Motor Vehicle Division Fees, which might sound somewhat benign, but it’s not. The Fiscal Year Budget for those fees is only $1,320,000. Compared to the more than $250,000,000 of property taxes, the County government confiscates, that doesn’t seem like a lot of money.
The Commissioners Court plays a bit of a game with the disclosure to the public of how much money they actually collect from Montgomery County citizens under this tax. In the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, the County Commissioners Court has only shown $1,320,000 as the anticipated revenue from this tax. In reality, that doesn’t make any sense and is really another attempt by the Commissioners Court to jack up the “necessary” property tax rate as high as possible.
During Fiscal Year 2015, Montgomery County projected $1,400,700 in Supplemental Motor Vehicle Division Fees. But in actuality, Montgomery County collected $4,729,334 of those fees! Similarly, the Commissioners Court projected collecting only $600,000 in supplemental registration fees during Fiscal Year 2016, so that they could justify collecting a higher rate of property taxes. Instead, they collected over $5.1 million in those fees.
In other words, Doyal and his colleagues are telling you that their tax revenue is $3.5 million less than it actually is, so that they can keep your property taxes higher!
If someone tells you that the County Commissioners Court doesn’t levy a car registration fee, they’re not telling you the truth.