Courtesy Heritage Society of Austin
Following controversy last year that led to the City of Austin altering its tax policy on historic property, more taxing authorities are placing caps on the size of reimbursements that owners of designated historic homes are able to collect.
Travis County plans to review sometime in June its tax exemption for historic properties for the first time in about 15 years.
The county’s policy, which does not have a cap, calls for all of the taxes homeowners pay to the county for the value of the structure to be reimbursed as well as 50 percent of taxes paid on the land the property sits on. Commercial properties are discounted by 50 percent for the value of the structure and 25 percent for the value of the land.
The county has until July 23, when the tax roll is scheduled to be certified, to make a decision, but commissioners will likely vote on the policy later this month.
The Austin ISD board of trustees considered in early May a draft proposal to cap its historic property tax exemptions at $3,500 for properties purchased after Dec. 31, 2011. The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal June 18.
AISD's current policy exempts taxes on 50 percent of a historical building's value and 25 percent of the land value. The district does not cap the exemption amount.
On June 4, the Austin Community College District limited its tax exemption for historic residences that serve as a homestead to the average taxable value of all residential homestead properties within ACC's taxing district.
Neil Vickers, ACC vice president of finance and budget, said the average home value is about $250,000, so with ACC's take rate at 9.48 cents for every $100 of valuation, the cap is about $250.
The taxing authorities' decisions to revisit the tax policies have largely been prompted by the city revamping its policy in December by adding more rigor to the inspection standards and placing a $2,500 cap on reimbursements for properties purchased after Jan. 1. The city had been faulted for allowing too many houses to have a historic designation, allowing the owner to file for an exemption—some, perhaps, undeserved.
The city previously had a reimbursement cap of whichever was the greatest: $2,000 or 50 percent of the property tax, depending on when the property was purchased.
Proponents of historic tax exemptions say they encourage residents to move into older houses and help alleviate the higher cost of maintaining these properties compared with newer properties.
Critics say the exemptions primarily benefit the wealthiest residents. According to Travis County, the average assessed value of historic properties is $874,853
Alyson McGee, deputy historic preservation officer for the city, said 435 properties requested an exemption this year out of 588 historic properties in city limits.The city's historic preservation department is responsible for designating all of the historic properties.