AUSTIN — While Americans decided important contests across the nation in Tuesday’s election, citizens in Texas’ capital city spoke out after a monstrous, “severely damag[ing]” tax increase was approved and will now hit citizens already struggling to afford food and a place to live.
“As if taking care of my family wasn’t hard enough already. Thanks Austin,” one citizen wrote on social media.
On Tuesday, Austinites voted 58-42 percent to raise the city property tax rate a whopping 8.75 cents—charging the average homeowner over $300 more on their annual city property taxes.
The 20 percent-plus city tax increase was a plan by the all-Democrat Austin City Council and local government agency Capital Metro, who wanted cash to fund a controversial and record-expensive $7.1 billion rail and bus project called “Project Connect.” Their project, which will take decades to fully build, will construct a few light rail lines in the central city, an underground tunnel across several blocks of downtown, new bus routes, and electric buses.
The historic, permanent tax increase will only fund the initial phase of the plan.
The council’s cash grab comes after officials’ recent shutdowns of the city forced at least 132,000 Austinites out of work and a slew of local iconic businesses to close.
Additionally, the city council was also already taking 100 percent more cash from the median homeowner annually, compared to 12 years ago.
Hit by heavy taxes and debilitating shutdowns, many local citizens and small businesses, already struggling to afford basic needs and prohibited from earning income, warned leading up to the tax election that they couldn’t take any more.
“There’s no money. … This is a bad time to be talking about adding to our property taxes,” said local business owner Shannon Sedwick at a press conference last month.
“We’re already having a hard time paying the rent. So, now you’re going to have a 25 percent tax increase that is going to go on forever,” added Skeeter Miller, who owns The County Line, an iconic local barbecue joint.
“This will severely damage what’s left of Austin’s businesses downtown,” said Republican Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty in October.
“It will be the final nail in a lot of people’s coffins, I’m convinced of that,” he added.
After voters approved the tax increase, Democrat Austin Mayor Steve Adler and other city council members celebrated on social media, but citizens had a different reaction.
“Congratulations, with millions unemployed and trying to get back on our feet, you have now raised all our taxes. We are all going green when we start [wandering] around homeless,” one citizen tweeted.
“25% is only the beginning of the increase in property taxes because that won’t come close to paying for it,” another commented. “Also, traffic will be worse for more than a decade. This technology is already outdated. Imagine how outdated it will be when it’s finally complete.”
“Raising property taxes during a pandemic when unemployment rates are the highest they have been since the Great Depression. Pricing essential workers (teachers, nurses, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, postal employees, day care employees, etc.) out of the ability to ‘live where they work,’” wrote one citizen. “I hope 10 years from now some part of what I think makes Austin great is still recognizable.”
“Austin City Council: We have an affordability problem! Also Austin City Council: We need to pass this transportation package costing billions of dollars during a pandemic while everyone is working from home, and make those who will almost certainly never use this system pay for it!” replied another. “Oh, and landlords are gonna have to drive up rent for everyone to help offset their insanely increased costs.”
“Kids. Absolutely zero complaints about affordable living and gentrification,” one individual wrote. “You voted to increase taxes you don’t get to complain anymore.”