Forget the fact that at least 138,000 Austinites were forced out of work last year, or that almost half of the area’s families have struggled to pay their bills. Forget that taxes have already piled up by more than 150 percent on the median homeowner and forced a slew of local businesses to board up and leave the city.

Austin city officials still want to take more money from citizens.

As the annual budget process begins this summer for local governments across the state, the Democrat-run Austin City Council next week is expected to direct Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo to calculate a new property tax rate for next year and increase it by 8 percent.

Normally, local officials can only raise property taxes by 3.5 percent in a year without first asking voters, thanks to recent state law; however, Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID disaster decrees currently allow officials to take 8 percent more cash without voter permission (though that disaster loophole could soon be closed after the Texas House and Senate both approved proposed state law Senate Bill 1438).

Van Eenoo recently told the Austin Monitor he is required to calculate that maximum tax rate regardless of whether the council ultimately decides on it. But if the council’s past behavior is any indicator, there’s a good chance they’ll take as much as possible from citizens.

Thirteen years ago, the council charged the median homeowner $705 on their annual city property tax bill. Today, it’s more than $1,740.

The council has raised taxes by 8 percent nearly every year for the past decade. Last year alone, during government-mandated shutdowns that devastated countless citizens’ livelihoods, Austin voters also approved the council’s massive 25 percent tax increase for a questionable, record-expensive bus and rail project.

Furthermore, not only does the Austin council collect truckloads of citizens’ cash, but they roughly double per resident compared to cities such as Dallas or Houston.

And how they spend that money is a perpetual disaster Texas Scorecard has frequently documented.

“Austin city council says: ‘Austin is unaffordable and people are being priced out! We must do something!’ Also Austin city council: Calculate the property tax rate for next year with an increase of 8 percent above the city’s current maintenance and operations rate,” wrote one individual on Twitter.

As local governments begin considering tax rates this summer, concerned citizens may contact their local elected officials.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.