You’d think an economic crisis with over 130,000 Austinites recently out of work would be enough to change local city officials’ minds about raising taxes yet again this year—but they’re actually wanting to take more of citizens’ cash than ever before.
Last week, the all-Democrat Austin City Council approved their new budget for the upcoming year, and they’ve teed up a triple-whammy of new property tax charges for citizens that could raise the median homeowner’s annual bill over $500.
First, the council raised the normal property tax rate by 3.5 percent—the maximum allowed by state law before they would be required to ask voters for permission. That will take roughly $67 more from the median homeowner next year.
Second, the council passed a nearly half-billion dollar bond for sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes. If voters approve the plan in November, the council will charge another roughly $77 more from the median homeowner next year.
Finally, the council passed a controversial and historically-expensive $7 billion rail and bus proposal that will require a whopping 8.75-cent tax rate increase just to fund the initial phase. If voters approve the plan and tax charges in November, the council will take nearly $400 more from the median homeowner next year.
The council may be rapid-firing tax increases this year, but they’ve also been doing it for a long time. Since 2008, they’ve raised taxes nearly 8 percent almost every year and are now taking 100 percent more cash from the median homeowner (in 2008, the median city tax bill was $705; now it’s over $1,400 and could be edging $2,000 come later this year.)
And for those who think the council’s property taxes only hit those who own property, think again—apartment rents will continue to soar out of reach (Austin had the highest rent increase in the U.S. in the past decade), and prices will keep climbing at grocery stores, restaurants, hardware stores, barber shops, you name it.
Indeed, the council’s repeated cash grabs harm everyone across the city. A report by the United Way revealed a startling 42 percent of Austin families are struggling to pay their bills, and that raising a family of four in Austin-area Travis County costs a whopping $13,000 more than the statewide yearly average—yet the city council and other local governments keeps raising it higher.
Why do they keep taking more money? The Austin City Council spends roughly double per citizen than other cities such as Dallas or Houston, and they waste a ton—like the $140 million they overspent on a flawed tunnel project, $450,000 blown on two public toilets, $115,000 tossed to clean one public toilet, $156,000 on holiday parties just last December, and the mammoth $1 billion they spent on an ill-advised biomass power plant disaster that produced energy for only six months and has since been shut down.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
So while Austinites are struggling, especially after local and state officials recently shut down the city and left countless without work, their local officials have decided to instead keep plundering.
Even worse, in the council’s new budget, they also defunded the local police department by one-third, and are spending that money on other city “projects” including killing children. But that’s an entire other conversation.
“Austin City Council unanimously makes #ATX less safe & raises taxes during a global pandemic & economic collapse,” one citizen recently tweeted.
“City council has made Austin worse and worse,” another wrote. “High taxes and gentrification that killed the east side then they say we care about the lower income families.”
“Mayor [Steve Adler] – you’re tone-deaf to the people of Austin who have been asking for tax RELIEF for years!” another tweeted.
Concerned citizens can still do something about the looming tax hikes, by contacting the city council and voting in November.