Hollywood Park City Council voted 4-1 on Feb. 21 to raise the city’s property tax exemption for homeowners ages 65 and older from $5,000 to $20,000.
Local officials said eligible residents must contact the Bexar County Appraisal District and request the over 65 exemption on their annual assessed property value, which is provided by BCAD.
City Treasurer Fred Timmons said a senior tax exemption would affect slightly more than 550 Hollywood Park households where a property owner is age 65 and over.
The vote to increase the senior citizen tax exemption caps a monthslong debate among city leaders who debated to what extent a higher exemption could affect Hollywood Park’s long-term budgeting efforts.
According to local officials, a $25,000 over-65 tax exemption—which some exemption hike proponents had favored—could result in a yearly decrease of more than $60,000 in projected property tax revenue.
Resident Shannon Sims, who voiced support for raising the exemption in previous council meetings, said she wants the city to view a tax exemption as not just as a tax savings for some people or a tax burden shifting, but instead as an opportunity for city staff to find more efficiencies in Hollywood Park’s annual budget.
“I just ask you to take everything into account and see if there’s room in the budget to take the tax exemption up to $25,000 or at least some other step,” Sims said before the council’s Feb. 21 vote.
Resident Tonya Cummings said a $25,000 exemption would save her $9.26 monthly on her property taxes, but she expressed worry about how a drop in property tax revenues could affect support for city services or initiatives.
“To me that’s a small savings and not worth decreasing available city funds of almost $64,000 a year and perhaps a future decrease in city services,” she said.
Mayor Sean Moore reported his concerns that a $25,000 could limit the Hollywood Park’s budget flexibility, especially if there’s a full-blown economic recession or some other thing that could affect the town’s finances. But Moore said he would entertain a total $10,000 senior tax exemption.
“We can always try it and come back again next year,” he said.
Council Member Wendy Gonzalez, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the $20,000 exemption, said she would like to offer property tax relief but has fears about consequences on future budgeting.
“I just don’t see how we can make this work very well because when you don’t have those one-time expenses that might go away, then you’d need that money be put into the general fund, say, for the roads,” she said.
Other council members said it is important to consider city budgeting needs, but felt that increasing the exemption up to $20,000 would still give local senior citizens some tax relief and still not have a significant effect on the town’s finances or services.
The city estimates a decrease of $51,249 property tax revenue projected in the fiscal year 2024 budget, which begins Oct. 1.
“For some, it’ll save some people some money. Overall it’s not the end of the world,” Council Member Michael Voorhies said of the higher exemption.
Eligible residents are urged to explore available tax exemptions from other applicable taxing entities, such as Bexar County and North East Independent School District.