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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Travis County assessments and tax bills both going up
Tax bills for Travis County taxpayers are going up again, but if commissioners adopt staff recommendations, the increase for most property owners will not be as great as originally estimated. On the average property, bills will increase by about $45
Because the county’s certified tax rolls for the upcoming fiscal year have increased since initial estimates, the county has shaved a little off the effective tax rate for fiscal year 2012. That rate is the figure used to calculate the rate the county would need to charge in order to raise the same amount of money as the previous fiscal year—but it is not the rate taxpayers will see on their bills.
County Budget Director Leroy Nellis told the court Tuesday that the adjustment would raise the total property value in fiscal year 2012 from about $95 billion to around $97 billion. The county auditor’s office still has to officially sign off on the jump. That would happen as part of the mid-August revenue estimate.
County officials proposed a tax rate of 0.4862 cents for every $100 of property value. The rate is up from 0.4721 in fiscal year 2011. If approved, it would result in a property tax bill of $1,061.84 – after the county’s 20 percent homestead exemption is applied – for the average county homeowner. Last year, the same homeowner paid $1016.64.
The projected average home value for Travis property owners is $272,995.
Taxpayers would fund a $742.3 million budget. That figure is up by roughly $36 million. The largest portion of that – just under $530 million – is dedicated to the county’s general fund. The biggest number below that – roughly $85 million — is reserved for debt service payment.
Travis County Assistant Budget Director Jessica Rio told the members of the County Commissioners’ Court that their jurisdiction is in good financial shape. “We believe that this preliminary budget represents very sound financial planning for (fiscal year) 2012,” she said.
Still, there was some concern on the horizon. County Executive Manager of Budget and Planning Rodney Rhoades told the court that he hoped to build up their reserves in advance of the 2013 budget. “We are anticipating lower new construction numbers in (fiscal year) 2013,” he said. “As a result, we are recommending that we hold reserves as much as we can going into 2012.”
New construction, of course, raises the level of property tax income for the county. The county estimates that new construction in FY2012 will be roughly $2.4 billion.
Rhoades’ office won’t know the exact dollar amount for the certified tax rolls until about the third week of August. At that point, budget officers will be back before the court to announce their refined estimates.
County budget hearings are planned for Sept. 20, 23, and 27. County Judge Sam Biscoe suggested that this may be a bit late. “What I’m thinking is that our work on the budget will be done by Sept. 20,” he said.
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