Under that scenario, a typical taxpayer who owns a home valued at $232,272 would pay $1,051.08 in city taxes — up from $1,011.24. So taxes would go up $40 despite a 6 percent homestead exemption the council approved this year.
This is a time when the city should lower its tax rate, since property values have gone up. Higher property values mean the city can bring in as much or more revenue with a lower tax rate. And raising the tax rate robs homeowners of relief they should be getting from a homestead exemption. It’s no wonder so many readers of this page continue to question why Austin’s explosive growth — financed in part by public dollars — is not paying for itself.
If the city’s business model for growth still is costing taxpayers a bundle every year, at what point does it bump up against the law of diminishing returns? That’s a question on which the council needs to drill down, especially since Ott’s budget proposal also increases fees for necessary city services, such as water, waste water and drainage.
Click read more for entire article
Guest post - Vicki Totten, Austinites for Fair Taxes:
Thanks to Bill Oakey for his work in getting the below Truth in Taxation resolution before the Austin City Council this Thursday. This resolution is being sponsored by Council Members Troxclair, Kitchen, Gallo and Mayor Adler. The resolution is item #52.
Letters from citizens and groups in support of the resolution can be sent directly to each of the Council Members and Mayor Adler. You can use this link to do so: https://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members
Hi Leigh and Vicki,
My Truth In Taxation proposal for a Taxpayer Impact Statement is on the agenda as Item #52. It is a resolution. You can see the draft below.
Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to create and publish a Taxpayer Impact Statement.
( Notes: SPONSOR: Council Member Ellen Troxclair CO 1: Council Member Ann Kitchen CO 2: Mayor Steve Adler CO 3: Council Member Sheri Gallo )
WHEREAS, adopting a property tax rate and budget are critical functions and responsibilities of the City Council; and
WHEREAS, the tax rate and resulting budget provide funding for City of Austin services; and
WHEREAS, the property tax rate combined with changes in property values can result in higher tax bills for Austin residents from one year to the next; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Truth-in-Taxation Constitutional Provisions require taxing entities to disclose property tax rate proposals prior to adopting a final property tax rate for the year; and
WHEREAS, it is often difficult to clearly understand how a proposed tax rate, combined with changes in property tax values and other city fees, will affect the total tax financial impact in dollars on Austin residents; and
WHEREAS, in light of the rising property values in Austin, a decrease in the tax rate from the previous fiscal year does not guarantee a reduction in taxes, which leads to confusion for taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, for clarity, the City of Austin could disclose both proposed tax rates and the impact of the proposals expressed in dollar amounts for homes with different values as set out in the Taxpayer Impact Statement; and
WHEREAS, in a city struggling with affordability, it would be helpful for the City of Austin to provide this information not only as a commitment to full transparency, but also to help Austin residents accurately budget for future expenses; and
WHEREAS, all Austin residents have the opportunity to be involved in the budget process and would benefit from clear information regarding proposed changes to their city property tax bills in order to provide the best feedback; and
WHEREAS, the total taxes assessed and collected by the City of Austin to deliver city services are a significant cost to Austin residents, and it is the City of Austin’s goal to provide the most complete, accurate, and easily understood information about any changes in those taxes or fees; NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN:
The City Manager is directed to create a Taxpayer Impact Statement that shall include definitions of both the effective and rollback tax rates in simple terms. The Taxpayer Impact Statement shall also include charts with yearly totals (see attached framework to serve as a guide).
The City Manager shall post the Taxpayer Impact Statement on the City of Austin website, in the Proposed and Approved budget documents, financial forecasts, and other public documents regarding the City of Austin’s budget. The Taxpayer Impact Statement shall also be published in local newspapers two weeks prior to any public hearing on the budget. If circumstances, such as a protest of property tax appraisal values, prevents this publication date, the Taxpayer Impact Statement shall be published on a date as close as reasonably possible to the two weeks prior to the public hearing on the budget.
When the newly formed single-member-district City Council asked the city manager to submit a lean budget with responsible cuts, his response was pitifully weak and it suggested closing a fire station. What part of affordability does he not understand?
...At the end of July, the city manager issued his official budget recommendation. In Volume One, the word “affordability” appears eight times. But the word “tax” appears 290 times and “fees” 134 times.
Property taxes would go up $40 annually for a “typical” median homestead, with the new 6 percent homestead exemption included. But that “typical” homestead is only valued at $232,272. Many longtime residents in single-family homes haven’t seen tax appraisals that low in about 15 years. Even more disturbing is the onslaught of utility increases and “add-on” fee increases averaging $7.98 per month.
Click read more for entire article from the Stateman
Protecting Your Tax Dollars
In August the Austin City Council will begin working on the $3.5 billion budget for 2015 - 2016. The general fund budget alone is more than $903 million. The general fund pays for public safety, planning and zoning, municipal court, animal services, health and human services, parks and recreation and libraries.
Council Member Gallo will do everything she can to reduce the property tax burden, set a reasonable tax rate and reduce or minimize rates charged by the City of Austin, all while maintaining an emphasis on funding core city services. Our District 10 office will be reviewing expenditures for each city department and scrutinizing policy initiatives which impact our budget.
The graph below gives you an idea of how different taxing jurisdictions impacted your 2014 tax bill.
The City's Budget office has prepared the following chart of proposed increases to various rates. Council Member Gallo's goal through this budget process is to do everything she can to eliminate or minimize any rate increases for the 2015 -16 budget cycle.
At Friday's joint subcommittee meeting of the Austin Independent School District, Travis County and Austin City Council, staff shared how combined area taxes are impacting area residents. The typical Austin homeowner will pay about $4,760 in property taxes to area entities – including Austin Community College and Central Health – in fiscal year 2016 with an additional $2,880 spent on utilities. With appraised property values rising, the amount is expected only to increase in the next five years.
In fiscal year 2020, residents are projected to pay about $5,500 to the various entities and $3,170 to utilities, all tax rates being equal. AISD collects the majority of area taxes at about 51.4 percent, followed by the city of Austin at 20.6 percent and Travis County at 18.8 percent.
Precinct 4 Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gómez informed subcommittee members that the county planned to go out for a $292 million bond in November to fund the new Civil & Family Courts Complex. At-Large AISD Board Member Kendall Pace said the district was considering asking voters for a tax increase in May 2016, but she stressed that the discussion was very preliminary.
Readers know that we have been following Bill Oakey's questions about the cost of the new courthouse bond closely. Today, Travis County announced that to offset the costs of the building, they are willing to discuss selling part of the land to a private developer:
Thank you Bill for raising these questions - and thank you Travis County for thinking outside of the box!
Two different sides are emerging in the City's Challenge of Property Tax Appraisals.The Real Estate Council of Austin, which represents commercial interests versus Mayor Adler and City Council:
"Austin Mayor Steve Adler outlined for the first time Monday how the city’s challenge of commercial appraisals could proceed in court, saying the city will seek a reappraisal that could create savings for homeowners on their next tax bills and a longer-term solution that would ensure fairer values in years to come. "
Click read more, below, for the entire Statesman article.
A reader alerted us to RECA's stance on this issue, posted on their blog:
City Council Poised to Take a Wrong Turn on Taxes
"What’s different this time, say proponents of a challenge — led by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo — is that the city has a study “proving” commercial properties are undervalued by the Travis Central Appraisal District. This means homeowners are paying more than their “fair share. “
At RECA, we will stipulate that fairness is an important value for local government to observe. But this doesn’t change the fact that the bill for government is ultimately paid by the citizens, regardless of how we pretend to apportion it."
Other articles discussing the larger issue of commercial appraisal in Texas:
Real Values website:
Also, Politifacts did the math and Austin is the 3rd-fastest growing city for property taxes, behind only San Jose and Philiadelphia for 2005-20013:
And a copy of the City's study can be found here:
The Statesman's full article is under the cut - click read more.
"If I chose to build this in San Marcos, it would cost $292 million," says Ekhardt.
Judge Eckhardt said the county has been crunching numbers for ten years.
"It's a little frustrating because we really have run every possible track about where we can build this courthouse," she says.
She announced the county has come up with a way to shave 20 percent off the project.
"We can find some interest in this project from the private sector that can drive down the cost of this project," Eckhardt explains.
Bill Oakey has pointed out that a larger courthouse, built in Broward County, cost only $213 million:
Readers may remember that Bill quit the focus group on this project last year, after Travis County would not find ways to streamline the proposal and come up with a lower cost:
At its June 1 meeting the Austin Public Safety Commission was presented with the complete list of the City Manager's proposed budget cuts for Austin Police, Fire and EMS.
The list of proposed cuts includes:
These are only 5 items from the City Manager's very long list of cuts to Austin's public safety agencies.
And yet, yesterday, public watchdog Austin Affordability showed that currently, the City is projecting a $26.9 Million Budget Surplus from this year.
This announcement may be the first-ever local news story to break first onAustinAffordability.com. I included a teaser in yesterday’s posting, but now I have the actual documentation. The City of Austin Financial Services Dept. is projecting a budget surplus for this year of $26.9 million!
It is estimated that the homestead exemption, which Marc Ott says will require such deep cuts would be $5.2 million dollars if City Council had voted for the full 6%:
We urge our readers to contact City Council and say enough is enough. No City Manager should be proposing these kind of public safety cuts after the 2011 fires and the Onion Creek and Memorial Day floods, especially when it has already come out that he is lying, lying to the public and to the Public Safety Commission.
Below are the email addresses for the City Council members:
Thank you Bill Oakey of Austin Affordability for being a better public servant than our City Manager!
Share What City Services are Important to You
Great news! An online version of Budget in a Box, a game designed by the City of Austin to allow residents to facilitate small-group discussions about the City of Austin’s services, performance, and budget is now available online: http://www.budgetboxapp.com. Through playing Budget in a Box, participants are able to give feedback on 8 categories of City Services, including Emergency Response, Energy, Water, and Parks and Libraries.
If you have already participated in Budget in a Box by playing the game with friends or at one of our facilitated events around Austin, thank you! We look forward to receiving your results. As a reminder, the deadline to submit Budget in a Box results is Wednesday, June 10th. Submitting your results by this date will ensure that your feedback is included in the Community Engagement report provided to the City Manager and the City Council.
Results may be returned to our office online or by mail:
You may also go to our website to enter your results into an online form: http://www.austintexas.gov/online-form/budget-box.
A stamped return envelope is included in each copy of Budget in a Box.
City of Austin, Budget Office –BIAB
PO Box 1088
Austin, TX 78767
Thank you for your help in making Budget in a Box a success!