The city of Austin has been working to find ways to educate seniors about ways to lower their property taxes. The city is also developing a volunteer program that seniors can use to offset some of the tax. But the pandemic and severe winter weather in mid-February slowed efforts.
A 2019 Decision of the city council asked the city administrator to develop recommendations to find ways to reach seniors who qualify for the tax exemption. As per city administrator’s policy, the communications and public information bureau worked with staff from the Housekeeping Department, the Innovation Bureau, the Housing and Planning Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Austin Public Health Department, the Legal Department, and the Travis Central Appraisal District prepare a report together.
“I think it’s important for seniors to live in the community and in their homes while they are able,” said Councilor Ann Kitchen. “I also see it as part of an age-friendly community.”
Austin adopted one age-friendly action plan in 2018 and became the first Texas city to receive approval from the World Health Organization that year. The plan to make Austin a liveable community for people of all ages was developed by the city Senior Commission, AARP, AustinUP, and other nonprofits that work in concert with the city council.
Rising real estate values in Austin are forcing many permanent-income residents and seniors to move outside of the city as their homes become unaffordable.
“State law allows people over 65 years of age to submit to the appraisal district that they are 65 years of age or older and then receive the senior citizen tax exemptions offered by the city,” said Janee Briesemeister, chairwoman of the Seniors Commission. This contains According to the TCAD website, there is a $ 10,000 tax exemption for school district taxes, as well as a $ 25,000 tax exemption for all homeowners.
However, the employee report found that not all Austin residents have applied for property tax exemption, especially in metropolitan areas. The city needs significantly more range.
The state of Massachusetts mentioned in the employee research has developed a volunteer program that grants seniors a discount of up to $ 1,000 in return for volunteering, From painting hydrants to answering machines to stacking books in the public library. A similar volunteer program is currently being discussed in Texas.
“The city and our department are currently running two emergency programs due to both the pandemic and the recent winter storm event, ”said Julia Campbell, public information and marketing manager for Housing and Planning.
TCAD’s previous contact efforts included a press release and town hall meeting to provide additional information to eligible homeowners, including seniors.
TCAD has information about properties that use the 65+ exception. No specific data is available on which homes are eligible, but an application has not yet been made as the owners do not need to provide evidence of their date of birth or age.
Employee research recommended the city share TCAD’s news, flyers, and direct postings and reach seniors through Austin Public Health, the Equity Office, and CPIO’s Community Outreach and Engagement team. They also suggested using census data to find the number of homeowners over 65. How the city will prevail remains to be seen.
Photo made available under a Creative Commons license.
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