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Homestead exemption talk on the agenda

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 by Jo Clifton

District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair is once again working to increase the general homestead exemption for property owners. She has worked on this issue since she was elected in 2014.

Although City Council voted for a 6 percent exemption in 2015 and raised that amount to 8 percent in 2016, last year Troxclair was the only Council member pushing for an increase. This year, however, Council members Leslie Pool, Ann Kitchen and Ora Houston are supporting Troxclair’s effort by signing up as co-sponsors for her resolution to increase the exemption.

In an email to supporters sent out Monday, Troxclair wrote, “Enacting promised property tax relief through a 20% homestead exemption has continued to be one of my highest priorities since my election. This widely-used tool allows cities and counties in Texas to give property owners up to a 20% discount on their taxes. Travis County has had one in place for years, along with other cities like Houston and Dallas. It is one of many ways that the Council can ease the rising property tax burden, slow gentrification, and protect seniors.”

“The 2015 Zandan Poll found that 79% of Austin residents were in favor of a 20% homestead exemption,” Troxclair wrote. “That same year, Council adopted a specific commitment in city ordinance number 20150604-010 to reach ‘a full 20% homestead exemption within the next four years.’” Despite that commitment, Troxclair noted, Council did not raise the exemption, much to her disappointment.

Pool told the Austin Monitor that she is supporting the resolution in order to allow Council to consider adding 2 percent to the homestead exemption. She noted that would give homeowners a 10 percent exemption, a 25 percent increase over the current exemption.

Last year, Pool said, the city’s economic situation did not allow her and other Council members to consider increasing the exemption. This year, Pool said, it appears to her that the city will have sufficient funds to do that.

“My district … appreciates the additional homestead exemption, especially the older residents and those on fixed income. … They also recognize that there are significant needs in our community, which is why they supported me when I did not vote to raise the exemption” last year, Pool said.

When Mayor Steve Adler filed for office in 2014, he said, “This is a great city but we’ve gone from being one of the most affordable to being the most expensive city in the state. And today as a newly filed candidate for mayor of Austin, I want to announce my support for the 20 percent homestead exemption. It’s long overdue. Travis County did it years ago. It’s allowed by state law. We could’ve done it four years ago. We could’ve done it six years ago … (or) eight years ago. But we haven’t acted. Affordability is a big problem and we need to act.”

Adler, along with Troxclair, Pool, Kitchen and Council members Don Zimmerman and Sheri Gallo, voted for the increased tax exemption in 2016, but Zimmerman and Gallo are no longer on the Council.

Troxclair’s resolution is on Council’s June 14 agenda. Under state law, Council must take action before July 1 if it wishes to increase the exemption for the upcoming year.

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