Following a year in which some area taxing authorities cut their tax rates or implemented only moderate rate increases, some Northwest Austin residents may see as much as a 3 percent increase in their 2012 property tax bill.
Hardest hit are homeowners in the Pflugerville and Round Rock school districts, who on average could pay as much as $200 or so more in property taxes this year than last, according to a Community Impact Newspaper analysis based on the average price of a single-family residence in Travis County.
The tax increases are primarily to fund salary raises for public employees, many of whom have not had a pay raise for at least a year. But for Pflugerville ISD, the proposed rate increase would help clear out the district’s heavy debt load in preparation for a bond election in 2013.
“We know [that] to pay off our existing debt, principle and interest is going to be about $480 million,” PISD Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Adix said.
The new rates also reflect a drop in value of the average home in Travis County from $272,931 to $270,677. A homeowner’s property tax bill is based on the value of his or her home, so to bring in the same amount of money as last year, taxing authorities said that among other measures, they must raise the rates.
Round Rock ISD
PISD’s proposed rate—$1.54 per $100 of property valuation—is the largest tax rate increase among taxing authorities affecting Northwest Austin residents, but homeowners in Round Rock ISD will also see a relatively large increase with the district’s return to the 2010 rate of $1.38 per $100 of property valuation. The average Travis County homeowner in RRISD will pay about $160 more to the district, Community Impact Newspaper calculated.
The board of trustees lowered the rate in 2011 to $1.335 per every $100 of property value as a reprieve to taxpayers and because of the district’s healthy fund balance.
RRISD’s new rate will help fund a 3 percent salary increase for teachers and staff, none of whom received a pay raise last year.
City of Austin
On Aug. 1, City Manager Marc Ott presented to Austin City Council a $3.1 billion budget for the 2013 fiscal year that calls for property taxes to go from 48.11 cents per $100 of property valuation to 50.29 cents. The council is scheduled to vote on the rate Sept. 10–12.
Although city staff said the increase would equate to an additional $1.67 per month for Austin homeowners based on the median property value within city limits, estimated at $178,327, the increase for the average Travis County resident would be about $48 annually, according to Community Impact Newspaper calculations.
Ed Van Eenoo, the city’s budget officer, said the city uses the median value because half of the homes are worth more and half are worth less than that amount, whereas about two-thirds of homes are worth less than the average value.
The beefed-up city budget includes a 3 percent pay raise for city employees.
“We continue to do better,” Van Eenoo said of the fiscal year 2013 budget. “I think we’re in a better state than we were last year, and I think last year’s was in better shape than the year before it.”
City staff project a property tax rate increase of 3.3 cents for every $100 in property value during the next five years.
Travis County commissioners are also weighing an increased property tax of 50.01 cents per $100 of property valuation, up from 48.55 cents, to help pay for an average 3.5 percent increase to employee salaries.
If approved by Travis County commissioners, the new tax rate would add $20 to residents’ tax bill, said Leroy Nellis, director of the county’s planning and budget office, a figure that includes a 20 percent homestead exemption for those whose Travis County home is their main residence.
In addition to the pay raises, the increased revenue from property taxes would pay for higher employee health insurance premiums and retirement contributions as well as maintenance for county property such as computers, vehicles and roads. Other expenditures include renovating the county’s executive office building in downtown Austin and the Travis County Jail.
Larger rates, smaller bills
While Central Health and Austin Community College have either proposed or already approved small increases to their tax rates, because of the lower value of homes, the average homeowner will in fact pay less this year to the two taxing authorities than he or she did in 2011.
ACC spokeswoman Alexis Patterson Hanes said the average taxpayer’s bill would decrease by almost a dollar if trustees approve the proposed rate of 9.51 cents per $100 of valuation, an increase from 9.48 cents.
Meanwhile, Central Health’s rate, which was approved by the organization’s board of trustees Aug. 1, will go from 7.89 cents per $100 property valuation to 7.8946 cents, yet homeowners will pay $3 less on average, spokeswoman Christie Garbe said.
This article includes reporting by Joseph Olivieri, Blake Rasmussen and Rebecca Rose