Austin utility bills, property tax proposed to go up

FILE - Austin Energy Electric Meter box (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)
FILE - Austin Energy Electric Meter box (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin residents could see their bills go up. Under the city’s proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, Austin Energy, Austin Resource Recovery and property taxes are proposed to go up. Thursday, city council will hold the first of two public hearings to get feedback.

Austin Resource Recovery, which is the trash and recycling bill, is proposing to raise its rate by $0.85. Austin Water is not proposing a rate increase, but Austin Energy wants to increase its rate by 3.6 percent, which would amount to an average of $3 per month. Officials with the utility say rates have been artificially low for the past two years and they are aiming for a “normal rate,” but state Austin Energy provides customers the second lowest rate in Texas.

Property taxes are proposed at 46.51 cents per $100 of taxable value or a 13.2 percent increase. Mayor Steve Adler is proposing the city do what he calls a “tax swap.” It would mean AISD would lower its tax rate and the city would raise its tax rate. That way not as much money is sent to the state’s recapture fund and the city in return would pay for some of the district’s needs.

“That money has to be used for municipal purpose,” Adler says. “It could be used for a park, a clinic, or a program, or something associated with traffic.”

Adler says it’s an idea that may need to be worked on throughout the year.

“I intend for this community to investigate and talk about as many different creative ideas as we can find to have more money in our district, to lower property taxes, and to be able to get more done.”

Adler touts next year’s budget as increasing the living wage for city employees, providing incentives to companies that bring high paying jobs and training middle and low skilled workers. It also includes a regional workforce plan to provide job training opportunities for 40,000 people.

But he also adds the biggest tax bill isn’t the one that comes from the city, county or local schools.

“70 percent of the property tax increases we are seeing are coming from the state property tax to run the schools,” Adler says. “And that dwarfs any changes that anyone else is making.”

A public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. A second public hearing will be held Aug. 31 before council is expected to vote on the budget Sept. 11. If all proposed rate increases are passed, Adler says residents could pay an average of $10 more per month.

Kate Weidaw is LIVE in Austin on KXAN News Today with a preview of the public hearing Thursday.

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