You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Austin City Council narrowly approves larger homestead exemption

The Austin City Council narrowly gave final approval to increasing the city’s homestead exemption Wednesday, which will save the typical Austin homeowner about $23 a year while the city takes in $3.8 million less revenue.

The measure will knock 8 percent off the value of a home for city tax purposes, up from the 6 percent exemption offered this past year.

The tensions surrounding the 6-5 vote showcased the primary challenge confronting the council this budget cycle: managing the collision of desires to expand government services and affordable housing programs against the growing anger caused by rising property tax bills.

“I think it is really unfair to cast this vote as a vote between rich and poor people in our community,” Mayor Steve Adler said. “I don’t think that’s right. I think that’s wrong.”

He added, “We should use the tools that we do have to do the best job we can, and I think this is part of that.”

GET THE DAY’S LATEST NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Afternoon Updates email

Wednesday’s vote came after the council tentatively approved the measure last Thursday. The push comes as the city plans to ask voters in November to pay for a $720 million transportation bond, which would fund road improvements along more than a dozen major corridors.

Adler linked the two issues last week in an interview with the American-Statesman, saying it was important to show voters the city was doing what it could to alleviate its property tax crunch to help gain support for the bond, which would increase property taxes by about $60 a year for the typical household.

Split along district lines

The debate Wednesday over the homestead exemption left council members split along district lines. Those in renter-heavy districts said the changes would do little to help their residents, while the $3.8 million in lost revenue meant the city would have to cut programs those districts need.

“I just hope we all understand the position we’re putting ourselves in,” said Council Member Delia Garza, who represents Southeast Austin’s District 2. “To me, it’s bad policy to put this hole in the budget for such a tiny impact.”

She added, “To frame this as, ‘We’re helping struggling families,’ it’s not helping struggling families, it’s helping the wealthiest.”

READ MORE: Why the typical District 2 resident saved just $1 from last year’s homestead exemption

City staffers previously told the council that based on already-approved spending, there is only about $2 million available to expand the exemption, unless spending cuts are made elsewhere.

Garza was joined in opposition by Council Members Ora Houston, who represents Northeast Austin’s District 1; Sabino “Pio” Renteria, who represents East Austin’s District 3; Greg Casar, who represents North Austin’s District 4; and Kathie Tovo, who represents Central Austin’s District 9.

A procedural twist

The path to Wednesday’s special meeting wasn’t straightforward. State law requires that changes to the exemption be adopted by July 1. And while the measure scraped through the council provisionally last Thursday, it failed to get the seven votes needed to fast track it for final passage. The council would be required to meet twice this week just to vote on the measure twice more.

That was, until 2:18 a.m. Friday, when Adler told a weary council that Casar would reverse his opposition and support the measure procedurally. That allowed the council to meet just once this week, when Casar would vote in opposition for the final vote.

READ MORE: PolitiFact Texas examines how many Austin City Council meetings run past midnight

“I’m going to vote for this on first and second reading as a courtesy,” Casar said in the early morning hours of last week’s meeting. He added, jokingly: “I was told that if I wanted to be courteous or be a statesman, I should not run for City Council.”

Calls for taxpayer relief

Ann Kitchen, who represents South Austin’s District 5, and Leslie Pool, who represents North Austin’s District 7, argued that increasing the exemption would offer a measure of relief to struggling families and those on fixed incomes as rising property values contribute to higher tax bills.

“I hear from folks in my district about the importance of the homestead exemption,” Kitchen told the council last week. “This does make a difference to them.”

Both voted for final passage, but neither spoke from the dais Wednesday. They were joined in support by the council’s fiscal conservatives: District 6’s Don Zimmerman and District 10’s Sheri Gallo, who represent West and Northwest Austin, and District 8’s Ellen Troxclair, who represents Southwest Austin.

The council created the 6 percent homestead exemption last year, and Adler and some members have pledged to gradually increase it to 20 percent within four years.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says
BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says

Search crews looking for a male swimmer that was reported missing at McKinney Falls Park on Friday evening have ceased rescue operations and are now in recovery mode, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Emergency responders received a call about 6:30 p.m. from the 5800 block of McKinney Falls Parkway, officials said. One of the swimmer’s...
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman

A grand jury has recommended an aggravated assault charge against a Dallas police officer who shot and killed a pregnant woman in a January confrontation involving a stolen car. The Dallas County district attorney announced Friday that Christopher Hess was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault. The charge is related to the January shooting death...
Officials ID woman who died trapped under vehicle in Jonestown

JONESTOWN Woman who died trapped under vehicle ID’d The Travis County sheriff’s office has identified the woman who died trapped under a vehicle in Jonestown on Thursday evening as 62-year-old Denise Lynn Coonrod, of Jonestown. Authorities responded at about 7 p.m. to a call from the 10000 block of Deer Canyon Drive, officials said. &ldquo...
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas

California’s decision to ban its state employees from traveling to Texas on their taxpayers’ dime after Texas lawmakers passed new limits on gay parents adopting and fostering children set off a new round of recriminations Friday between the nation’s two largest states. But with the usual exchange of barbs came a new set of warnings...
GREG KELLEY CASE: Rangers’ report finds ‘previously undetected’ crimes

A Texas Rangers report looking into new allegations in the case involving Greg Kelley, who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 4-year-old boy in 2014, is soon to be finalized and hints at a finding of newly discovered criminal activity, Williamson County court documents show. However, the document will not be immediately released to the public...
More Stories