While Austin has grown in recent years, its government is growing far more rapidly, and residents—new and native—are faced with drastically increasing costs, exhausting the ability of some to start, or continue, calling this city home. Some of this was on display recently when Austin officials released the city’s proposed budget for FY 2017-18.
Early recommendations for the city budget are focused on raising taxes yet again. Under the potential plan, the typical Austin-area homeowner could see his or her property tax bill grow from $1,133 to $1,251. That’s more than a 10 percent jump in someone’s tax bill, and would make for an almost 80 percent increase over the last ten years. This brings about an important question—how long can taxpayers endure endless tax increases?
The answer to that question is unclear, but what is undeniable is that these tax increases are making life less affordable for the average Austinite.
And while some might try to defend the city’s insatiable appetite for tax revenues on the basis of “needs”, the facts don’t support the level of growth that’s happening. In the last ten years, the city’s population grew by 29 percent, but the city’s budget grew by 56 percent and the general fund by 74 percent. That’s a big mismatch between what’s needed and what’s actually being spent.
The data doesn’t lie: property taxes are soaring in Austin. Worse yet, a lot of these new revenues are fueling bad decisions locally instead going to pay for needs. If Austin’s affordability crisis is ever going to be remedied, then it’s critical that the city’s property tax problem be dealt with soon.