Travis County commissioners unanimously voted to increase a pair of homestead tax exemptions for county seniors and residents with disabilities June 29.

The exemptions were approved for both Travis County and Central Health's 2021 tax years, and offer mirrored exemption raises for county homeowners age 65 and older and those with disabilities. The increases boost the fiscal year 2020 exemptions of both entities from $85,500 to $100,000, which Travis County Budget Director Travis Gatlin said is expected to result in around a $54 tax bill decrease for eligible homeowners accompanied by a $6.50 increase in tax burden on the county's average taxable homestead.

Gatlin also said that, despite the actions taken by Travis County officials in late June, market conditions could still lead to a rise in tax bills for some area residents.

“In some statements of the commercial values, they have softened a bit in some cases, the hospitality and retail have gone down. At the same time everyone’s aware of the rising increase in values on the residential side," he said. "What we think is going to happen ... is the tax bills next year could be higher than we’re used to because the home values are growing likely higher than the overall tax base. ... We’re in a very unique, once in a lifetime situation that’s occurring specifically in Austin and Travis County related to housing shortages and skyrocketing values."

Jeff Knodel, Central Health's chief financial officer, told commissioners that the county health care district's board arrived at its own exemption increase to $100,000 after averaging the ratios between local homestead exemptions and median home values from the past five years. While the board recommended that increase, the decision was ultimately left to the county commissioners court.

The decision to provide property tax relief for residents calling Travis County their primary home follows similar increases approved this spring by Austin City Council. City officials in early June not only raised senior and disabled exemptions to $113,000, but doubled the standard homestead exemption for all city homeowners from 10% to the maximum 20%. Both Travis County entities already sat at the 20% limit ahead of commissioners' June 29 vote.