The group of residents, referred to as Senior Watch, wore red shirts at council's meeting and addressed the dais during the city's public comment period. The proposed freeze option referenced by the group dated back to council's Jan. 16 meeting. Under a freeze option, the ordinance would freeze the amount of taxes a resident pays once they turn 65 and has a homestead. This version is only applicable to the city's maintenance and operations portion of its tax rate and does not apply to its interest and sinking rate.
Former Hutto Mayor Debbie Holland spoke before council Feb. 20 as a representative of Hutto's senior community. Holland said that a "concerted effort" had been made by council to connect with senior residents in the past several months and that an ongoing dialogue is necessary to ensure seniors' perspectives and experiences are heard and represented in council action.
"Vibrant communities have a diversified population," Holland said.
According to data from the 2018 American Community Survey five-year estimates, Hutto has 1,096 residents aged 65 and older, encompassing approximately 4.6% of its in-city population. Holland said that while there are just under 1,100 senior households within the city, senior citizens are civically engaged residents who also fulfill part-time jobs, school mentorship positions and volunteer efforts within the city.
“The world functions better when there is balance," Holland said. "The seniors of Hutto need the city as much as the city needs the seniors.”
Hutto City Council will host a work session at 5 p.m. on Feb. 27, ahead of its special-called meeting, to discuss three proposals for a senior tax and homestead exemption. City staff and Williamson County Tax Accessor-Collector Larry Gaddes will be present to field residents' questions and go through each proposal's potential impact on the city's budget.
The city of Hutto currently adheres to Texas' tax and homestead exemption for disabled veterans. Once enacted, the approved senior tax and homestead exemption would not go into effect until fiscal year 2020-21's tax rate and budget.