By Bill Oakey – August 18, 2020
As the pandemic drags on and threatens to be compounded by the winter flu season, Austin taxpayers face another daunting challenge. Last week the City Council adopted their new budget that includes a 23% property tax increase. This increase is for Project Connect’s “initial investment” of $7.1 billion for a horribly flawed mass transit plan. Voters will decide whether to approve the tax increase in the November 3rd election.
But by the time the election gets underway, the Travis County Tax Office may have already processed our new property tax bills with the City’s 23% increase baked in. This link shows that last year, the Travis County Tax Office submitted electronic bills to taxpayers on November 1st. It remains to be seen whether it is possible or feasible for the County to wait until after the election to prepare this year’s tax bills.
What Happens If Tax Bills Get Processed Before The Election, And Voters Reject The Unconscionable Tax Increase?
The Texas Municipal League has published a helpful guide to implementing Senate Bill 2, which contains the State legislation related to this topic. At the bottom of Page 9, it states:
”If property owners pay their taxes using the originally adopted tax rate and the voters ultimately reject that rate at an election in November, the city must refund the difference between the amount of taxes paid and the amount of taxes due under the voter-approval tax rate.”
As you can easily imagine, we could be headed for a confusing and chaotic whale of a mess! Long before the November election, scores of businesses, landlords and homeowners struggling with mortgage payments during the pandemic will confront a harsh reality. They may be delinquent or completely unable to pay their property tax bills. On top of that, the City of Austin may have to calculate and process tax refunds for a few hundred thousand taxpayers.
And If That Isn’t Enough, Another City Tax Increase Is Looming!
In their infinite wisdom, the City Council chose this unfortunate time to put a whopping $460 million bond issue on the November ballot. Proposition B is a grab bag of projects including bike lanes, urban trails and transportation improvements. Some of these are well thought out and necessary. But voters should reject it this year, because it is loaded down with far too many expensive goodies that we can’t afford during a hundred year health crisis and recession. (For crying out loud)!
The absurd Project Connect item is Prop A on the November ballot. The nearly half-billion dollar goody bag is Prop B. So, here is a slogan that we can share with friends all the way to the November election:
Bill – Thank you for posting the issue of the newly adopted City tax rate, with the Project Connect increases included in it, per the new budget adopted by the City Council. I have wondered, since I reseatched the new adopted tax rate, what would happen if the voters in the November 2020 do NOT approve Project Connect. If the tax bills are already sent by the County Tax Assessor/Collector, will the City be required to refund the Project Connect related taxes? You answered that with a “YES”.
Being a retired muncipal employee, I have never worked or lived anywhere where the taxing entitiy adopts the new rate BEFORE the tax election. Very odd.