Struggling to afford living in Austin? Your local government is about to make you struggle even more.
Austinites are about to lose more of their hard-earned cash, courtesy of Austin City Council. City Manager Spencer Cronk recently announced a new tax increase for the city’s 2020 budget, recommending that city council take 8 percent more money from citizens than they did last year. For the median homeowner, that means council will take roughly $100 more than a year ago.
But here’s the shocking part: Compared to just 11 years ago, city council is now taking 100 percent more cash from the median homeowner.
That’s right. Double.
In 2008, the median city tax bill was $705, but now that bill is over $1,400. And that doesn’t even include the soaring tax bills from school districts and counties.
City Manager Cronk tried to downplay the latest tax hike.
“And it’s really—the way it impacts taxpayers is only about $8 a month on your property tax bill,” he said in an interview.
Cronk’s “$8 a month” line has long been used by city council to justify increasing taxes. Year after year, council has charged citizens $6 more a month here, $7 more there—but now those seemingly small bills have piled up to nearly a thousand dollars more per year out of the median homeowner’s pocket.
Surprisingly, even progressive council member Sabino “Pio” Renteria recognized how taxes have become nearly impossible to afford.
“If I wasn’t 65, I would be the one moving out of this city ’cause I couldn’t afford the taxes,” he said. “I’m blessed because I’m over 65 and my school property taxes are frozen, but that’s one of the main reasons I’m still here.”
Ironically, Renteria has voted to raise taxes all four years he’s been in office, and will likely do so again for Cronk’s new budget.
The worst part is, council’s decision to constantly take more cash from citizens has hurt everyday Austinites—and especially the working class—the most.
“When I bought this house 22 years ago, my property taxes were [roughly] $2,800 a year, which was doable,” said homeowner Brendan Sipple, a single father in north Austin. “Now, they are $9,000 … at what point do I say I can’t do it anymore?’”
Meanwhile, what is city council doing with all the cash they’re taking? Here are just a few examples: $140 million overspent on a bad tunnel, $450,000 blown on two public toilets, $115,000 tossed to clean one public toilet, and millions literally given away to any citizen who sent an email asking for cash.
In fact, city council spends over $4,000 per man, woman, and child in Austin. That’s about twice as much as is spent in cities like Dallas or Houston.
But sadly, this year the council is choosing to make the same decision they’ve made in the past, taking even more money from citizens and spending it questionably. That decision is one Mayor Steve Adler recently expressed his approval for.
“This [budget] looks to be a document … that reflects and states the values of the community,” Adler said.
The city is hosting a public hearing on the budget on August 22, and council will likely approve the tax increase on September 10.