Property Taxes in Austin to Fall, With or Without Levy

Posted at: 10/22/2013 6:31 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a common way for school districts to generate operating revenue.

And two weeks from now, voters in the Austin school district will have their say.

But there's an unusual twist to this vote.

"It amounts to about a million dollars a year," said Austin school district finance director Mark Stotts.

It's an operating levy that has been in place in the Austin school district for a decade.

"It's money that is used to run our schools on a day-to-day basis. It pays the heating bill, the light bill, salaries," Mark Stotts explained.

And on November 5th, residents of the Austin school district will go to the polls to decide whether the levy should continue for another ten years.

"Keeping solid schools in our community brings families to the community. Obviously the learning potential that's within the kids who are already here, that's important to cultivate," said Austin parent and homeowner Peggy Young.

What makes this referendum unusual is that even if it passes, taxes will go down. that's because the state has changed its formula for what it calls 'equalization aid', which seeks to even the disparity in property values from district to district. In the past, the state paid 49 percent of operating levies in the Austin school district.

“Now with the legislative changes and changes to the formula this session, it amounts to about 60 percent coming from the state," finance director Mark Stotts said.

So if your home is valued at $100,000 dollars:

"If the levy were to pass, their taxes would go down $41 dollars per year," Stotts said

If the referendum were to be voted down, taxes would go down even more because the referendum would go away. But without that money:

"85 percent of our budget is salaries and benefits, so when we talk about loss of revenue, if we had to cut programs, we're talking about people," said Austin schools finance director Mark Stotts.

"It's not just a simple referendum. It really is important to the continuation of programs in our schools" homeowner Peggy Young said.

The school levy will be the only issue on the ballot for Austin voters on November fifth.