Public Notice: City Budget Season Continues

A primer on the schedule and the tax rates

Public Notice: City Budget Season Continues

"All attention at City Hall is on the budget," I wrote last week. And then the city's most prominent front-line homelessness service provider appears to have imploded (see Austin Sanders' story here), so now, maybe not so much. But the budget's still there, and I thought I'd start this week with a short explainer of one key aspect of property valuations and tax rates. As usual, the story starts with property owners, and then trickles down to renters in the end.

Most homeowners, no matter how much their property valuation went up, will probably get a lower property tax bill this year.

Property owners around town had heart palpitations last month when they opened their Travis Central Appraisal District notices of valuation and found that their appraised property values had gone up by 40%, 50%, or more. According to a TCAD press release at the time, the median home value in Travis County's Austin ISD was up 49.7%, from $440,692 to $659,899. But while their property may be worth 50% more, that doesn't mean that their taxes are going up 50% as well – largely due to a couple of state-mandated limits. One is a cap on the amount of property tax revenue a taxing entity can collect – which can't go up by more than 3.5% a year (on existing properties) without a public vote. So if property values are up by more than that, the city has to lower its tax rate by a comparable amount, so as to not collect too much money. In the city's case, in the budget proposed by City Manager Spencer Cronk, the tax rate – the amount you pay per dollar of property value – is down 16.4% from last year.

But here's where that other limiting factor kicks in, because state law caps the annual increase on residential taxable values at 10%. In other words, even if your home's value doubled, the amount you're taxed on can only go up 10%. And remember, the tax rate went down by 16.4%. Add it all up, and the city's Taxpayer Impact Statement shows the median homeowner paying $1,620 in property taxes this year, down 6.3% from last year's $1,730. We can expect that the other taxing entities – AISD, Austin Community College, Central Health, etc. – will more or less follow suit, such that most homeowners, no matter how much their property valuation went up, will probably get a lower property tax bill this year.

Commercial property owners (which includes apartments), on the other hand, have no such cap on increases in their taxable value, so if their valuations went up by a similar amount to residential, as a recent TCAD press release appears to indicate, the average commercial property owner might expect to pay about 22% more in property taxes this year, based on a 48% increase in valuation. And in most cases, that increase will flow through to tenants in the form of higher rent. So, as I promised at the start, it all trickles down to the renters.


City Council members will be hosting budget town halls over the next couple of weeks to look at the city manager's proposed budget for the next year and to discuss priorities for adjustments that Council may look at in a couple of weeks. (Budget work sessions are Aug. 9 and 11; budget and tax rate adoption are scheduled for Aug. 17.) CM Vanessa Fuentes hosted the first town hall last week for City Council District 2, and there are six more over the next nine days:

Districts 3, 5, & 9: Sat., July 30, 10:30am, via Zoom

D8: Mon., Aug. 1, 6pm, via WebEx

D1: Wed., Aug. 3, 7pm, Asian American Resource Ctr., 8401 Cameron

D10: Thu., Aug. 4, 6:30pm, Jewish Comm. Ctr., 7300 Hart

D7: Sat., Aug. 6, 10am, Northwest Rec Ctr., 2913 Northland

D6: Mon., Aug. 8, 5:30pm, via WebEx


MoveOutATX returns this weekend – "a collaborative community effort to connect students with local reuse organizations to rescue material from the landfill during West Campus summer move-out." Students and other area residents can bring "unwanted, gently used items" to one of six West Campus drop-off locations this Thu.-Sun., July 28-31, 11am-6pm – everything from furniture to clothing to nonperishable food – and eight different reuse organizations will be there to redistribute and make use of it. See moveoutatx.org for a list of locations and accepted items. And there's a new wrinkle this year: a Free Furniture Market, which will be open the same four days from 2:30 to 6:45pm at UT's intramural fields at 4901 Guadalupe (park on 51st Street by the tennis courts). Anyone can pick up furniture, but it's first come, first served, and you have to load and haul it yourself.


The Austin Animal Center is in even deeper doggie doo-doo than usual, after taking in more than 40 small dogs from one owner in an eviction situation over the weekend. The shelter is currently at 142% capacity for all dogs, and in fairly dire need of fosters and adoptions; more info at austinanimalcenter.org.

Austin FC and Q2 are hosting a blood drive benefiting We Are Blood at Q2 Stadium in the Captain Morgan Club next Wednesday, August 3, from 10am to 6pm. Donors get a custom T-shirt and a chance to win match tickets every hour. Preregister at weareblood.org, though walk-ups are also welcome.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro at austinchronicle.com.

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