The 2015 Austin City Council from left: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, Councilman Sabino Renteria, Councilman Don Zimmerman, Councilwoman Delia Garza, Councilwoman Ann Kitchen, Mayor Steve Adler, Councilwoman Leslie Pool, Councilwoman Ora Houston, Councilman Gregorio Casar, Councilwoman Sheri Gallo and Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair[/caption]
A 6 percent homestead exemption will be implemented in Austin next year and increase to a 20 percent exemption during the next four years.
The tax break would possibly benefit homeowners by saving a projected $26 in property taxes next year; however, the city of Austin would lose $7,614,080 in revenue, according to city staff. By the time a 20 percent exemption is in place in 2019, the city of Austin will lose $40,754,759 in revenue.
Council members have discussed raising the tax rate in the upcoming budget session to make up for the revenue loss, said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, who represents District 9. Doing so would shift a burden of $17 more per year to commercial and rental properties, she said.
"Some families will certainly benefit from this proposal but the vast majority of our residents will pay more taxes," Tovo said. "Renters typically earn less income ... and so this is going to exacerbate the situation for many renters in our community."
Tovo was among the four council members who voted against the 6 percent exemption. Council members Ora Houston of District 1, Delia Garza of District 2 and Greg Casar of District 4 also voted against the measure.
District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman said council could cut city spending instead of raising the tax rate in order to reduce the loss of revenue.
Critics of the homestead exemption have said the tax relief only benefits Austin's most wealthy, a claim that District 3 Council Member Sabino "Pio" Renteria said he finds "insulting." He said the homestead exemption will help low-income homeowners in the East Austin area who have been pushed out of their homes recently due to rising home appraisals and gentrification.