The Bryan-College Station economy declined for the second consecutive month, according to the College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index, which measures several economic factors. The index also reports that property taxes for Bryan-College Station residents, at $1,865 per person, are about the same as the state average.
The index declined by 0.4% in February, an annualized rate of minus 4.7%. The index runs with about a two-month lag.
“Statistically, the index has declined again because nonfarm employment declined a bit,” Dennis Jansen, executive director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M, said midday Wednesday. He also said a number used in the previous month’s report was revised downward, which negatively impacted the data.
“And then on top of that, the unemployment rate was constant from month-to-month but had been trending up for the last several months, and that also is leading our index to be declining,” said Jansen, who is also an A&M economics professor.
The area’s unemployment rate stayed at 3.1%, according to Andy Rettenmaier, PERC’s associate executive director. As per usual, the current rate in B-CS remains lower than the rate for Texas and for the U.S. The rate in Texas stayed at 3.8% in February, while the national rate declined to 3.8% from 4% in January.
Rettenmaier said unemployment and nonfarm employment weigh heavily in the index, and that as time marches on, losing a data point from several months ago in a new monthly calculation can impact how the index looks in the present.
“We re-estimate and let the data speak again each month,” Rettenmaier said.
In addition to its regular reports on unemployment and overall economic strength, the report also provides insight on a different economic topic each month. For this month’s report, the center looked at property and sales taxes.
Jansen said that property tax increases have been about 4% per year statewide and 3.8% locally.
“Individuals are seeing their property taxes going up faster than inflation and faster than the number of people here,” Jansen said.
Property taxes in College Station-Bryan averaged $1,865 per person, about the same as the state average of $1,860. Property taxes in Austin average at $2,583 and just over $2,010 in Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. San Antonio property owners pay an average of $1,644, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the U.S Census Bureau. All numbers are 2017 numbers.
School districts are the largest single recipient of property tax dollars. While county taxes per capita in B-CS are higher than the state average, local residents face lower school district and city taxes.
Local property taxes and those from around the state have been growing faster — and state sales taxes slower — than the sum of inflation plus population growth.
Property taxes to special districts, such as utility districts, are not included in the index, Rettenmaier said. Special districts include hospitals, emergency districts and community colleges. Brazos County has relatively few special districts, according to Jansen.
Rettenmaier, also an A&M economics professor, reflected on the report’s finding that sales taxes, in real numbers, have risen slower than inflation and population growth.
“The observation on state sales taxes is that it’s been pretty constant, in real terms, so adjusting for inflation. When individuals are thinking about their overall taxes, they’re thinking about those rising per capita property taxes. That’s what’s driving the attention,” Rettenmaier said.
Real taxable sales increased by 1.5% in February 2019, and are up 9.4% relative to February 2018.
The Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation sponsors the monthly index.