The property tax crisis requires immediate attention


Those of us who got our property tax assessments in the mail this week have something to look forward to this weekend: trying, with the possible help of a forklift, to dig our jaws out of the ground.

Real estate appraisals are skyrocketing in San Antonio at rates we’ve never seen before and it’s a scary proposition for families in danger of being taxed out of their homes.

In one year, the value of an average home in Bexar County has increased by more than 23% (from $250,806 to $309,118), according to the Bexar Appraisal District.

Elected officials are uniquely crippled when it comes to property taxes.

Members of Congress can cut tax rates and you will immediately feel the difference. Property taxes, however, are essentially local taxes, paying public schools, city and county governments, hospital districts, etc.

No matter what these tax authorities do to give you property tax relief, that relief is eaten up — and more — by assessment hikes.

It is a relentless source of frustration in this state that our fate rests in the hands of tax assessors who have never set foot in our homes, offer us no explanation for their decisions, and base their assessments on the strengths of the market driven, at least in part, by faceless pinball machines that have no connection to our community.

Your house has not changed for 15 years; your standard of living is substantially the same as in 2007; but market forces beyond your control have changed all around you.

Appraisers tell you that the house valued at $150,000 when you bought it is now worth $300,000. In Bexar County, that means going from an annual tax bill of about $3,800 to about $7,600.

Troy Elliott, the city’s deputy chief financial officer, alluded to such infuriating scenarios during a Wednesday budget presentation to city council.

Elliott said the city could advocate in next year’s session of the Legislative Assembly for some form of targeted property tax relief that would be based on how long people live in a home.

“I think the expectation is that when you move into a house, you know what your tax bill will be,” Elliott said. “But because you’ve lived in that house for five, 10, 15, 20 years, that tax bill just keeps growing.”

It’s not a problem, it’s a crisis. It’s a crisis created by out-of-control valuations, not high tax rates. Therefore, it cannot really be solved by changing tax rates, which is up to legislators.

Nevertheless, we all know that something has to be done.

At the same time as council members were briefed on the budget, four San Antonio state legislators participated in a forum on the downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio, moderated by Evan Smith of Texas. Grandstand.

Lawmakers – José Menéndez, John Lujan, Ina Minjarez and Diego Bernal – all agreed that property tax reform would be a consensus priority item in next year’s legislative session.

During Wednesday’s council session, Clayton Perry, who has often been a lone voice for property tax relief on the dais, had a choir behind him.

Last year, Perry and fellow North Side Councilman John Courage tried unsuccessfully to extend San Antonio’s $5,000 Homestead Exemption (which lowers the assessed value of your home by 5 $000 when municipal taxes are assessed). On Wednesday, it seemed clear that the idea now had strong support.

West Side Councilwoman Teri Castillo thanked Perry and Courage “for beating the drum on property tax relief.” Castillo’s freshman board colleague Mario Bravo said, “I support going big on a homestead exemption.”

Property tax rates in San Antonio are relatively low compared to other cities in Texas, but this city is also relatively stingy when it comes to property exemptions.

Last year, Austin increased its homestead exemption from 10% to 20% of a home’s appraised value. San Antonio’s $5,000 exemption translates to less than 2% of the value of an average home in that city.

If San Antonio lifts this exemption to 5%, it will mean an annual tax break of about $80 for the owner of a home worth $300,000. It’s a small dent in a tax burden of $7,600, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s also a responsible decision because now, unlike 2019 when council passed the $5,000 exemption, the city is practically overflowing with revenue.

Sales tax revenue in San Antonio is up 21% over last year. As for property taxes, a state law that caps annual revenue growth at 3.5% will almost certainly require the council to reduce the property tax rate by 2 to 3 cents, to stay in compliance.

They’re just band-aids on a deep cut. But any help is welcome at this time.

[email protected] | Twitter: @gilgamesh47


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