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Travis County Commissioners Hope for Property Tax Flexibility

Jillian Schantz Patrick/KUT News

Travis County Commissioners met today and spent a lengthy amount of time discussing a bill that may not see legislative light of day.

HB 3348 from Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would amend the Texas Constitution to give cities and counties flexibility in setting property tax rates – allowing them to set a tax rate of a specific dollar amount instead of the 20 percent traditionally used for property tax exemptions.  

The Commission voted to support the bill, with Commissioner Gerald Daugherty voting against Rodriguez’s bill, which would give Travis County and the City of Austin the ability to readjust property tax rates on a year-by-year basis.

Daugherty said the bill could potentially be a burden for those with high-value properties because the flat tax of a specific dollar amount would mean a lower exemption and result in higher taxes than if they were charged a percentage. 

“Twenty percent is a much greater number for people to take off if you’re in a higher priced home especially. And you’re going to be asking people to not do 20 percent, you’re going to ask them to go to $55,000 only,” Daugherty said.

“If you live in a $500,000 home, would you rather have $55,000 taken off your evaluation, or would you rather have $100,000? Most people are going to say, ‘I want the $100,000 taken off,’” he said.

Interlocal Governmental Relations Coordinator Deece Eckstein presented the commission with appraisal statistics of Travis County homes, finding that more than 184,000 of the 202,890 homes in Travis County homes are valued at under $500,000.

  • 24,705 homes priced under $100,000
  • 159389 homes priced between $100,000 and $500,000
  • 15539 homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million
  • 3,257 homes priced over $1 million

The commissioners agreed that the bill would increase tax revenues for the county, but Commissioner Ron Davis expressed concern that the City of Austin partnership on deciding tax rates could prove problematic.

“Relief is going to have to come from combined governmental efforts…Travis County is doing its share,” he said. “However, I think the City of Austin needs to come to the plate and provide some sort of homestead exemption, or relief, as far as matching what the county is doing.”

Ultimately, Davis said, the bill would amend the Texas Constitution, meaning that voters would decide the issue in the next election.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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