Travis County copies Austin's tax exemption policy for historic properties

The Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously adopted the City of Austin's policy for historic property tax exemptions as its own.

By doing so, the county institutes a cap on tax exemptions where there previously was not one. The cap would be whichever is greater—$2,000 or 50 percent of a property's tax responsibility.

The Commissioners Court also raised the tax exemption for property owners older than 65 from $65,000 to $70,000—reducing the county's tax revenue by roughly $900,000.

The decision followed a public hearing on the topic during the court's July 10 meeting.

Some historic property owners said the costs to maintain their homes outpaced the proposed exemption cap, and they would be less interested in keeping their designation.

The city's policy exempts 50 percent of the assessed value of the land and 100 percent of the value of the structure on an owner-occupied or nonprofit-operated historic homestead.

Commercial properties receive 25 percent of the assessed value of the land and 50 percent of the structure.

Because the City of Austin has changed its policy throughout the years, the value of the exemption could be as high as $2,500 depending on when the home was designated as historic.

Adopting the city's policy also means requiring historic property applicants to provide an affidavit proving a need for the exemption, as well as allowing annual follow-up home inspections.

Prior to the decision, the county was weighing other options, such as adopting a Local Tax Policy Workgroup proposal to cap exemptions at $2,500 minus the 20 percent homestead exemption.

Public comment

Many of the people who spoke during public comment identified themselves as historic property owners or involved in the care of historic properties.

Nancy Burns said the working group's suggested 1930-or-earlier cutoff was arbitrary. She said two years ago, the owners of The Brown Building on Colorado Street spent $2.5 million on repairs to the building's facade.

Brian Rodgers opposed the exemptions, stating that properties should establish a need for the exemptions before receiving them.

Charlie Thomas asked the county to allow current historically designated properties the option of opting out of the program should the county change its policies.

Chris Mackey said a $2,500 exemption would not be enough to keep him interested in a historic property designation.

He said he spent 125 hours and $3,500 rebuilding a railing on his historic house that may have taken him 20 hours and $500 to replace if he had an undesignated property.

"Old houses are expensive to maintain. If the county no longer wants to help the property owners with those expenses, some of them will go away, and the neighborhoods will be changed substantially. Some neighborhoods will change quite a bit," he said.

Other public speakers said that not all historic property owners were wealthy or from West Austin, and that the exemptions were needed to help the owners remain in their homes.


A calculator created by the Rocky Mountain Institute looks at the environmental impact of TxDOT's proposed designs for I-35 in Central Austin, one of the most congested roadways in the country. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nonprofit's tool says TxDOT I-35 expansion proposals would have profound environmental consequences

The tool says that the proposal would create between 255 and 382 million additional vehicle miles traveled per year.

Photo of the Travis County administration building and sign
Travis County hears update on process to reassess master plan for aging correctional facilities

The process comes after county commissioners opted to pause all activities of the master plan over the summer.

A sold lot in the Cortaro development in Dripping Springs is under construction. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Housing market shows signs of stabilizing, but median prices in Southwest Austin area remain high

Hays County is growing fast and selling houses for more and more money, though the number of sales is down year over year, data show.

Rodeo stock image
Inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo ready to open gates Oct. 21 after coronavirus delay

After the inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo was postponed in 2020, county and fair officials said they are excited to kick off the agricultural celebration.

Renderings of the conceptual tower were shown depicting a roughly 100-foot tower, but the intent is to build a smaller tower. A total of $2.43 million was given as an estimated cost for a 100-foot gravity tower, but presenters said the cost would scale down with a smaller tower. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Early concept for Frisco’s Northwest Community Park includes biking tower for ‘gravity riding’; Perky Beans Cafe now open in Leander, and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 20.

The future of West Austin's Lions Municipal Golf Course depends on the outcome of a city rezoning process and its landowner, The University of Texas. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
As Austin's rezoning of UT lands continues, time could be running out for Muny course preservation

The historic golf course's future remains unclear amid a city zoning process that could ease the land's redevelopment.

Austin Cultural Arts Division staff provided an update on several funding opportunities for the creative sector Oct. 18. (Screenshot via city of Austin)
Austin's arts community could be in line for millions more in relief dollars this year

Additional relief for artists may be available in the coming months, while a broader review of the city's cultural funding opportunities continues.

Photo of Evan Smith and Stephanie Elizalde
Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde talks learning loss, enrollment in annual State of the District comments

Elizalde touched on lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic in a discussion that aired Oct. 19.

The new venue will hold a minimum of 20,000 people, developer Craig Bryan said. (Courtesy of Craig Bryan)
More than 20,000-seat outdoor amphitheater proposed for Southwest Austin

The amphitheater would rival the Hollywood Bowl in size.

Want to know more about new businesses coming to the Katy area? Below you can find details on the five latest commercial projects filed in Katy. (Courtesy Canva)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Read the latest top news about restaurants, businesses and other commercial projects that are coming soon or now open

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 19.

Black Rock Coffee Bar's menu features Americanos, drip coffees, cold brews, specialty lattes, teas and smoothies. (Courtesy Black Rock Coffee Bar)
4 businesses coming to Cedar Park, Leander; Barton Springs Pool reopens and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.