The Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU for short) has been representing the taxpayers and challenging those who demand public subsidies in the Austin, Texas, area since 2012. Colloquially speaking, we’ve been busting the chops of special interests for over a decade!
And we have a record to show for it: our members have linked arms to stop new taxes, defeat bond elections, halt the construction of unnecessary public buildings, expose fraud and waste, and challenge unconstitutional abuses of power.
To provide a sensible, non-partisan voice for homeowners on local taxation issues. We dig into the issues, express support for good ideas and counterpoint to wasteful spending schemes that impose excessive taxation. Perpetual rate and appraisal increases have inflicted a “death by a thousand cuts” on local homeowners. We fight for sound public fiscal policy, open government, whistleblower rights, and lower taxes, and we boldly stand against corporate welfare and pork-barrel projects.
The complex web of local taxation and fees, which took decades to concoct, is quickly becoming unsustainable. It’s time to join together, defend our rights, reign in reckless spending and fight excessive taxation.
PROPERY TAXES — Property taxes, of course, provide crucial funding for essentials like police, courts, fire protection, and schools. Once a small share of homeowner expense; today they can approach the cost of some mortgage payments. Likewise, apartment dwellers and small business owners struggle to pay higher rents. For most, property taxes are integrated into a house payment or escrow account and obscured by design. Homeowners would be shocked if they had to write a huge tax check each January. The poor, elderly on fixed income and working families are hardest hit by property tax increases. Local property tax bills increased 38% between 2000 and 2010 — an unsustainable trajectory.
BONDS — Bonds are loans typically made in the name of property owners. Most local politicians don’t have a clue how much bond debt we owe; only that they want more. Local government debt in Texas rose over 144% from 2000 to 2009.A bond’s face value is not the amount taxpayers must reimburse; debt ‘service’ can add 50% or more. When interest rates rise, repayment costs also rise resulting in higher taxes. State law provides for unlimited tax increases to repay bonds. Bond schemes often depend on funding from an insolvent Federal government. Should those funds dry up, costly project abortion or local tax hikes are required. Federal funding cuts are not a matter of ‘if’; they’re a matter of ‘when’. Politicians spend millions of local tax dollars to produce “studies” to support dubious political agendas. When the government project fails, taxpayers are left holding the bag. Local taxpayers currently owe over $10 BILLION in bond debt repayment — that’s over $10,000 per citizen!
A STACKED DECK — Two things determine your property taxes: Tax Rates and Appraisal Values. Rates are set by: Austin Independent School District or other local school districts such as Round Rock, Leander, Eanes, and Lake Travis ISDs, City of Austin, Travis County, Central Health, Austin Community College, and dozens of other entities. These rates are multiplied against the appraisal district’s ‘taxable value’ on your property. Appraisal changes can have a huge impact on your tax bill. Now with VATRE (voter approved tax rate elections) in state law, we have more opportunity than ever before to work toward lowing the tax burden on Travis County residents of all walks of life.
TAXATION WITH DILUTED REPRESENTATION — Taxing entities have long exploited a serious flaw in our property tax approval system: Citizens not directly obligated for the taxes imposed by bonds and tax referendums are allowed to vote on them. This dilutes the representation of the homeowner who is actually indebted. TCTU supports policy solutions to resolve this issue. Most homeowners fail to vote on tax issues, but all must pay.
PUBLIC SPENDING CRISIS — Federal government borrows over thirty percent of it’s spending (over $3,300 per citizen/year and increasing) and has accumulated $16 trillion in debt (over $50,000 per citizen). Local government spending in Texas rose 84% from 2000 to 2009. A growing number of cities in America are going bankrupt; disrupting services and ruining credit ratings. Huge unfunded liabilities like the City of Austin’s pension obligation, lurk off the books. Government increasingly views homeowners as a perpetual fountain of funding – a perception that TCTU aims to change. Travis County has the highest per-capita taxation of any metropolitan county in Texas.
HELP US HELP YOU — We’re David fighting Goliath to provide a voice on your behalf. A tsunami of special interest money fuels our opposition; we need your help in our mission. Small donations from homeowners provide the core of our funding. We limit corporate donations and don’t accept funds from labor unions or government. It takes funding to stay abreast of fiscal issues, provide counterpoint, inform voters and fight for taxpayer rights. We ask for your participation and assistance in funding it. Fully 100% of donations go to non-partisan advertising and voter information efforts, and most the time we don’t even have our hand out! Contact us to get involved.