Wonky property taxes

The new Austin 10/1 council is pretty much settled after the run-offs. The new districts will be represented by 9 new Council members, two of whom are Realtors, a new Mayor with zero Council experience, all voted in by an appallingly low voter turnout especially in the runoff elections. In District-3,  Sabino “Pio” Renteria won with just 2,555 votes, a victory by 833 votes… I assume a mere $10,000 could have bought victory for  his opponent by paying locals $10 to go vote. I bet that TV and newspaper advertising looks lame now.

propertytax1One of the flagship, priority subjects will no doubt be property tax. Most candidates had a position on it, almost all want to discount or cut it. Hold on, not so fast. Anyone who actually thinks it through knows, property tax has almost nothing to do with affordability. I can certainly easily pay for my taxes now, but the question is, will I still be able to pay them in 20-years.

That’s certainly the problem most long term residents of the core/downtown neighborhoods face now. They generally live in modest homes, whose lot price and property tax evaluation has gone through the roof. The guy that lived opposite me, 73 when he died in April, couldn’t afford to retire. He was an (arthitic) plumber. He was paying, even with an age discount, more per year than he paid for a mortgage when he bought the property with a small deposit from his mothers estate after she died.

That effect can’t be allowed to continue for many reasons, not least because it is not acceptable. That people who have lived in their home, in what was often a modest property, in a less attractive neighborhood,are now, in their later years, being forced to move. A time when you often are less prepared for change, less able to make new friends, less willing to learn where to go and to get to pretty much everything.

Yes, they can make a ton from selling, and yes, many may chose to do that to move into assisted living, but they shouldn’t be forced to because thy cannot afford property taxes.

The whole issue has become conflated in the usual Tea party, “any tax” is to much rhetoric..  Rather than everyone jump on the bandwagon demanding a property tax cut, and the new 10/1 council lauding it around as having done something important, which the current proposal, clearly isn’t.

Julio Gonzalez has two great posts that show what the current proposal means on his Keep Austin Wonky blog. The Homestead Exemption debate in 2 minutes and 10 bucks or 10,000 homes