AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: Prop A, a $7.1 billion Project Connect plan, passed in the November election. To read more on what that means for Austinites, click here.
Austin voters will decide in November whether they're willing to pay more in property taxes to fund Capital Metro's "Project Connect," billed as a comprehensive transit plan to transform how people get around Austin. That decision will be on the ballot in the form of Proposition A.
The City of Austin's own estimates say the plan will cost the typical homeowner – using a median home value of $326,368 – about 26% more for the City portion of their property tax bill in 2020 than what they paid in 2019. The City reports that would equate to an increase of $332.39 per year, or $27.70 per month.
KVUE set out to double-check the City's math to make sure it adds up, and we're showing our work so you can see how we arrived at the numbers we did.
Overall, we found the dollar amount increases per year are fairly accurate. Our calculations put the increase next year at $335.09, compared to $332.39, or $27.92 per month, compared to $27.70.
The percent increase in our calculation, however, came out to about a 20.4% increase, instead of a 26% increase. This can likely be attributed to slight differences in the median property values sourced for these calculations. KVUE sourced these numbers from the Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD) on Sept. 17, 2020.
First off, let's look at what's happening to home values this year. TCAD announced in February it will not reappraise homes for 2020, so most residential properties' 2020 taxes will be assessed on the same property value as in 2019.
TCAD told KVUE the median property value in Austin in 2019 was $371,132. In 2020, that number is actually down slightly to $371,056.
The final piece of our calculation is the tax rate. In 2019, Austin's tax rate was 44.31 cents ($0.4431) per $100 of value. Even if the Project Connect vote, Proposition A, fails, the tax rate is slated to increase to 44.6 cents ($0.4460) per $100. And if voters approve Proposition A, the tax rate will increase to 53.35 cents ($0.5335) per $100.
So, let's start with 2019: a median value of $371,132 and a tax rate of $0.4431 per $100 of value. The City portion of the typical homeowner's tax bill would be about $1,644.49, or $137.04 per month.
On to 2020.
Even if the Project Connect vote is defeated, homeowners will still see taxes go up slightly. With a median value of $371,056 and a tax rate of $0.4460, a property owner could expect to pay about $1,654.91, or $137.91 per month – an increase of $10.42 for the year, or $0.87 per month.
If Proposition A passes, raising the tax rate to $0.5335, that same homeowner would instead expect to pay $1,979.58, or $164.97 per month – an increase of $335.09 for the year, or $27.92 per month.
So, if the Project Connect tax rate is approved, the typical homeowner could expect to pay about $335.09 more in taxes in 2020 than in 2019, compared to only $10.42 more if the vote fails. That amounts to a 20.4% increase in property taxes from 2019 to 2020 if Proposition A passes, and a 0.6% increase if it fails.
The City also offers a 10% homestead exemption to property owners who live at that property, so the numbers look a little different depending on whether a property owner claims that exemption:
2019 HS taxable value: $334,019 ($371,132 x 0.9, to take off 10%)
2020 HS taxable value: $333,950 ($371,056 x 0.9, to take off 10%)
2019 taxes: $1,480.04 ($123.34 per month)
2020 taxes WITHOUT Project Connect: $1,489.42 ($124.12 per month)
2020 taxes WITH Project Connect: $1,781.62 ($148.47 per month)
Opponents of Project Connect point out that a tax rate increase like the one called for in Proposition A isn't just a single-year impact. As property values rise year-to-year with new appraisals, the impact the tax hike will have will only get larger each year, as long as property values rise.
The 2020 situation in which, according to TCAD, the median home value dropped slightly year-over-year is highly uncommon for the Austin area. Most properties see increases in valuation each year, with appraisal increases being capped at 10% for homestead residences under State law.
It's also important to note, the Project Connect vote applies only to the City portion of a property owner's tax bill. Any change to tax rates for other taxing jurisdictions – such as the county, school districts, Central Health and Austin Community College – would have an additional impact on a homeowner's property taxes.
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