Austin County’s Sept. 4 public hearing on the proposed tax rate lasted less than 20 minutes, but commissioners got an earful from residents who are concerned about their rising property taxes.
"I read in the newspaper about the proposed tax rate. In order for you guys to increase your budget, you’re recommending this same tax rate,” said Linda Niehuus. “What most people don’t understand is that by keeping the same tax rate, you’re actually increasing your budget by almost 6 percent and that obviously increases our property taxes. All the people want to pass the buck to the appraisal district but I know the appraisal district has to keep appraisals within a certain range or we lose state funding. In fact it’s you guys that are proposing the budgets that are raising our property taxes. I would ask that you keep the effective tax rate, which keeps your budget the same as last year. The cost of living is 1.9 percent. There is absolutely no reason for your budget to go up 6 percent.”
Lisa Cooper said she also has concerns about rising taxes.
“Some people don’t get cost of living raises,” she said. “I have clients who have had to give their homes back to the mortgage companies because their taxes are even more than their mortgages.”
Richard Wollgast said his taxes almost doubled in the last five years.
“Every year it keeps going up,” he said. “My house and my barn are constantly deteriorating in condition. We’re going to end up being taxed out of existence; we’re going to have to sell [our property] in order to keep from losing it. Y’all should use really good judgment when you do increase taxes because it affects everybody.”
Two other residents also spoke against a tax hike.
Commissioners discussed in a previous meeting their desire to keep the tax rate the same as last year. Commissioner Bobby Rinn was opposed. County officials did not debate the matter during the Sept. 4 meeting, as the item was scheduled only as a public hearing in which to hear from residents. The tax rate is scheduled for adoption Sept. 17 and the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.