My Fellow Austinites, What Is It With Property Taxes?

RECEIVED Wed., May 20, 2009

Dear Editor,
    My fellow Austinites have had some time to digest their property-tax estimates and after a collective WTF? I have a question for the Austin City Council and state legislators: Why do you consider my house an ATM? I understand that a state/city needs to finance schools and services in some form, but to base it all on the value of someone's house is ridiculous.
    I'm an average citizen, a graphic designer, who makes an average salary for Austin. I happen to live in a sort of upscale community (Travis Heights), only because I have one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood. I haven't received a raise in 1½ years, I haven't taken a vacation in five years, and I can't afford to contribute to a 401(k). Why? Because my property taxes run $8,000 a year.
    Every year, the city and state deem that my house has gone up 10% in value, thus leading to a tax increase of 10%. Because of the compounding nature of percentage increases, in eight years my tax will be double: $16,000 a year. Where am I supposed to get this money? My house is not an ATM. Just because someone arbitrarily says it's worth $30,000 more a year doesn't mean I can pull $20 bills out of the attic. The only way I'll be able to pay my property tax is to sell my home and move to another state. Why does Texas want me to leave?
    The only solution is either a state income tax or installation of circuit breakers on property taxes. Either let us be taxed by our income and not some arbitrary worth, or limit the amount taxed by a percentage of our income. If we lose our job or we retire, we're not on the hook for a ghastly amount that we have no way to pay. My neighborhood used to be full of artists and musicians, but they've all had to sell and move away because they can't afford the taxes. It's time to fix the system.
Nathan Yost
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