Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Austin vs Austin Statesman: Booming Populace, Booming Taxes

Austin is growing and The Austin American Statesman has put out an editorial (found: here) about the rapid expansion of taxes in this city. Their target audience is the Austin metro taxpayer and elected officials; while the data presented should strike a chord with any one reading it. The author of the article is the nebulously named "Editorial Board" so I will accept the name of the Austin American Statesman as their qualifier for their respectability. Their point of contention is that the city's massive growth is failing to pay its way.

The position held by the Editorial Board is that the tax increases are excessive and unduly penalize long term Austinites as opposed to the new blood. These are tax increases of 23 to 184 percent over a decade and are of course property taxes. The first solution they suggest is a clarification of the tax policies instituted by Austin Community College, City of Austin, Travis County, Central Health (our local hospital district), and AISD. They request what everyone should have, transparency and full disclosure with local taxing information. It is pointed out that AISD is building new schools while older ones sit empty or suffer from low attendance and suggest filling those schools first. Another step they advocate for is a moratorium on tax increases for the 2013 budget.

 Texas has been growing at an exceptional rate for a while (thanks to our favorable business policies) and Austin has been a major benefactor of this shift. I do agree with much of their stated position. I can't fathom a leap of 184 percent in any on property tax item in a decade. Full disclosure of taxes is another aspect no one would debate. The one harsh criticism I will draw however is this: The city IS expanding. When the general public is in an economic slump it is always popular to suggest limiting taxes. We are still expanding however and a quick look at our infrastructure explains how well prepared we are for it. The rates are exceptionally high, but we live in a low-tax low-service state. If we expand services for a burgeoning population in a city that wasn't ready for it, we can't help but have severe growing pains.

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