By Bill Oakey – August 6, 2015
On Thursday the Austin City Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal by this blog to produce a Taxpayer Impact Statement as part of the upcoming City Budget. This marks a major step forward for truth in taxation. When the final budget is adopted, taxpayers will be able to determine the actual dollar amount of any tax increase for a range of home values at various levels of appraised value increases. The Taxpayer Impact Statement, which will be included in the budget document and published online, will also include the estimated dollar increases City in utilities and fees. An amendment to the resolution calls for a set of “budget highlights” to be listed on the statement.
Many thanks go out to Council Member Elken Troxclair, who sponsored this item as a resolution, and to the co-sponsors, Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Ann Kitchen and Sheri Gallo. And of course we are extremely grateful to the entire Council for their unanimous approval!
The Next Step Is To Ask Travis County to Follow the Example
On Thursday morning I contacted all five of the Travis County Commissioners and asked if they would consider supporting a similar Taxpayer Impact Statement for their upcoming budget. Commissioner Margaret Gomez was the first to respond, and she has gladly agreed to help. The best-case scenario would be universal adoption by all of our local taxing entities. Once all of their budgets are finalized, we should ask for a combined statement of the impact on taxpayers. I believe that good transparency will lead to a better appreciation of our affordability challenges, and hopefully, an eye toward more prudent budgeting.
American-Statesman Editorial Board Endorses This Reform
Here is an excerpt from their editorial:
WE SAY: AUSTIN CITY BUDGET
Tax deliberations need transparency, sensitivity for homeowners
Posted: 12:00 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015
By Editorial Board
“City watchdog Bill Oakey, who writes the “Austin Affordability.com” blog, has put together what he calls a ‘Taxpayer Impact Statement’ that spells out much of that data for city taxpayers. That is a good starting point.”
“And, if all five taxing jurisdictions put together such impact statements that also detail the total taxes and fees taxpayers are shelling out annually to those entities, it might generate the kind of sensitivity — and sensibility — needed in budget and tax deliberations. At the very least, such transparency would illuminate how spending decisions by elected and appointed officials affect taxpayers’ wallets from one year to the next. And that would enable voters to hold their elected officials more accountable”