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Rising property taxes are a growing concern. There are a number of people who believe taxes are high because the city provides not only essential city services (police, fire, etc.) but non-essential services (social service contracts, education funding, etc.) If elected, how would you prioritize what is or is not an essential city service?

Obviously, the biggest bite in our tax bills is not the city portion, but rather AISD’s, which in turn, must send nearly half a billion dollars back to the state each year under the system known as Robin Hood or ‘recapture.’ As mayor, I will make it a top legislative priority to work with AISD, other municipalities and our Travis County delegation, to fix this broken system and gain some real relief for Austin property owners.

However, the city of Austin has an important role to play in rising property taxes and must accept responsibility for managing the budget to minimize the property tax burden. As to city services, I will prioritize those that do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people, with special focus on lower income residents who have not shared in Austin’s recent financial successes. For the record, I believe social services and education are essential services. We must also vigilant about maintaining youth programs to ensure the next generation of Austinites grows up safe, smart and ready to give back to the community we share.

At the same time, as mayor my approach will always be “people first” and I would not support property tax exemptions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for corporate interests as was done with the Precourt Ventures soccer stadium on city land. If they do not pay, the people and businesses of Austin will have to make up the difference. As mayor, I will introduce a policy to ensure that (1) development on city-owned land will be subject to a fair and transparent process at least akin to requests for proposals and (2) any proposal in front of the Council that would exempt a property owner from property taxes from a county, school district, Central Health and/or ACC would be subject to a full discussion with the other jurisdictions prior to consideration.

And lastly, it is critical to understand the long-range impacts of programs as we consider investments, with an eye toward a “return” on the investment, both financial and with improved quality of life. From reducing health disparities to pre-K and recidivism programs to housing people experiencing homelessness, all have a positive financial gain in the long term and there are mechanisms to finance these goals.