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Houston weighs in on tax exemptions

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by Jo Clifton

As the Austin Monitor reported Tuesday, City Council members Ellen Troxclair, Ora Houston, Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchen are sponsoring a resolution on next week’s Council agenda to raise the homestead exemption for homeowners. That exemption is currently at 8 percent and could be expected to rise to 10 percent if six members vote for that. In response to an email request, Houston said that the need for additional exemptions in District 1 “should be a no-brainer. An increase in the homestead exemption is a small way to assist individuals on fixed incomes from losing their homes because of rising property taxes. It is a way for seniors to age in place in an area where market values of homes have skyrocketed more than other areas in the city. The owners of homestead property in the district may be unable, because of their social security and/or retirement income, to keep up with the annual tax increases they face on their property.” Under state law, Council must approve any additional homestead exemptions before July 1. Although Houston did not support increasing that exemption in 2016, she appears to be ready to fight for the increase now. In her email, Houston said, “The most reasonable option would be to adopt a tax freeze on homes of owners who are over age 65 or disabled, which the school district does. Another suggestion is to implement a ‘generational freeze’ to maintain those levels if an adult son or daughter signs an affidavit each year to attest to the fact that they inherited the home, it is now their homestead and the levels would remain in effect until the house is sold. People don’t think about the loss of inherited/generational wealth,” but when a senior citizen dies, she noted, “the freezes are lifted and the next generation is unable to pay the additional cost.” Houston said she is fortunate to be able to live on her state retirement and Social Security benefits with her Austin Independent School District taxes frozen. But, “I have no idea what the taxes will be for my daughter who will return to live in the ‘family home’ that was built in 1954.”

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