• Sun. Aug 7th, 2022

Austin at Large: We Can Survive the New Boom: But we must throw our weight behind us to increase our power as Texans – News

ByWillie M. Evans

Apr 21, 2022

This chart shows the month-by-month increase in median home sales prices in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area from March 2021 to March 2022, as tracked by the Austin Board of Realtors. That’s a 22% increase (about $100,000). In the city of Austin, the rate of increase was higher and the prices higher. Sellers don’t need to disclose sale prices to the appraisal district, but people there can read the headlines. (Source: Austin Council of Realtors)

Busytown came to a complete halt last week when the Travis Central Appraisal District dropped its latest real estate appraisals and took the public’s breath away. Even though home sales prices in Austin and Travis County aren’t routinely disclosed to TCAD, its evaluators can read, and they’ve seen the headlines each month of about 30% growth in sales prices in year on year, and so even with all the pressure on them to dump Austin property as a form of tax relief, they can’t do not raising the ceiling on land values; the question is how much.

Know, dear readers, that these figures are a starting point for negotiations. If you don’t protest your assessment, no matter what type of property you own, you’re a fool and TCAD really won’t know what to do with you. The agency doesn’t have the staff or the time to really individualize these assessments, so they’re willing to listen when owners say, “But this and that.” Sometimes you get lucky, like I did last year, and you find that the expert is willing to offer a rating that’s lower than your target. Just do it. You can hire people to do this for you if you’re not someone (like me) who really cares about real estate.

Also know that commercial property owners hire qualified surveyors to do it for them and almost never, ever fail to get deep discounts on appraised value. People like Paul Bettencourt, who also wrote Texas property tax law as a state senator, good work. In saner states that have seen rapid changes in land values ​​and economic fortunes, back and forth, taxing entities can simply say that due to current conditions they will only tax a portion of the appraised value of a property, without having to institutionalize separate exemptions. Texas doesn’t allow it.

He doesn’t allow tax hikes either.

Lest you think your or your landlord’s property tax bill is going up 30% as a result, not in this condition! Remember all that noise we made about “income caps”? Indeed, state law, authored by Bettencourt, states that the maximum tax rate a city or county can levy is one that brings in no more than 3.5 percent additional revenue over the tax rate. previous year – i.e. the approximate rate of inflation for the years preceding the 2019 Session in which the cap was adopted. It was previously 8%; when COVID and then winter storm Uri hit, the reduction to 3.5% was delayed by the statutory waiver of the emergency cap, which is normally more localized. School districts have different, but equally austere, limits on their tax rates.

So what this means for Austin and all the other big cities in Texas that are growing faster than the state as a whole (most of them) is that they have no other choice this summer than to drastically reduce their tax rates. The only people who are going to pay closer to full freight for their inflated assessments are those who put property (including improvements) on the tax rolls in 2021, so new construction, of which there is a lot in Austin, enough to make its various owners an empowered lobbying force at all levels of government. Some of this new construction is intended to be affordable, but TCAD has little way of ensuring that its tax assessments reflect that, another consequence of Texas tax tradition.

Do you see where we are coming from? We need to change state law.

We? Austin? Are you high?

There’s no way that, regardless of the outcome of the November election, the 88th Texas Legislature will have any real mandate other than to cut property taxes by any means necessary. Again, this is decreasing in all booming communities in Texas, not just blue towns, but also places like The Woodlands and Frisco which are adding commercial properties at a tremendous rate. We have Tesla, but they all have Amazon warehouses and giant mail order companies, sports complexes, entertainment centers and shopping malls. They don’t want to pay either!

So can you see how we’re forging a purple tide here? Like we did in 2018 when Beto O’Rourke, though not a winner himself, propelled enough new Democrats into the Lege and reprimanded enough MAGAnational Republicans there to provide the greatest solution to school funding in 20 years. Then we had a plague and the wacky 2020 cycle and last year’s endless Fox News docuseries special that was the 87th Lege, and everyone forgot to keep those swing voters happy. So is there now a whole new battleground on which to fight for better and fairer tax policy in a way that many GOP lawmakers won’t find repugnant? It is a real test for Democrats in Texas and their ability to take the lead even if they remain a permanent minority. It’s how the Dems in red states have done small but important things for years, and how they had candidates ready to win, say, Kansas governorship when the opportunity presented itself. Their constituents don’t spend as much time as Democrats in Texas wringing their hands and wailing over their own clumsiness, fumbling for a ball that’s actually closer than we think. We have to overcome this.

Do you have something to say ? the the Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.