City Council, District 8
The percentage-based homestead exemption (%HEx) disproportionately impacts lower-income families. In 2015, when the first %Hex was introduced, we found that, depending on the level used for the %HEx, families in lower-income households (in areas like District 2) could actually be forced to pay more in taxes to subsidize the cuts for the wealthiest of our households (in areas like District 10). I have a fundamental problem with the concept of a family in a $150,000 home paying more taxes so a family in $4 million condo downtown can save a few bucks. Making a regressive tax system more regressive is not progressive. I prefer, instead, to use the flat-rate homestead exemption (both standard and for seniors/persons with disabilities), which benefits everyone equally and can provide meaningful relief to families on lower and fixed-incomes.
Additionally, it is important to acknowledge here that the majority of our City residents are renters. When we think of cost of living reductions, we should also be factoring in how these policies would impact renters and their share of the collective tax burden. One area in particular that I would like to address to reduce the costs of living for renters would involve our utilities…the deposits and fee structures used by Austin Energy and the Water Utility take a huge hit on most renters’ budgets who often don’t much choice in moving when their lease ends. I have moved over a dozen times in the last decade or so. It’s expensive to be a renter, and I don’t feel like that is truly understood or appreciated by most policy makers.