Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘rapacious’ to mean: excessively grasping or covetous; ravenous. There may be no better word to describe the spenders on the Austin city council.
On Tuesday, all but one councilmember (Mackenzie Kelly) voted to approve a massive $5.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2024, which is being billed as “the largest in the city’s history.” And, of course, this bloated new budget is replete with all sorts of social justice spending, from chasing climate change to tackling racial equity to addressing “gender inequities.” Truly, there seems to be no end to the Austin city council’s ambitions. Unfortunately, those leftwing dreams come at a cost.
In addition to adopting its new FY 2024 budget, city council also voted to approve a new tax rate—and it’s much higher than it should be. Despite a raging affordability crisis, which city officials fully acknowledge in the budget itself, councilmembers set the city’s tax rate at $0.4458 per $100 of value which, for the average homeowner, will mean shouldering “a 6.1% increase in their tax bill.”
It’s hard to imagine voting to raise taxes on struggling families right now, but the Austin city council did. Worse, this latest tax increase continues a long pattern of abuse against the family budget.
Consider the data below which may be found in the city of Austin’s most recent Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. What it shows is rapaciousness on a grand scale.
From 2013 to 2022, the city of Austin’s property tax levy increased by more than 134%. Over that same period, the number of people calling Austin home grew just 16.6% and inflation increased just 25.6%. Combined, population and inflation rose just 42.3%, which is to say that the city’s property tax levy is growing 3.2 times faster than it ought to. Even if one were to compare tax levy growth (+134.3%) with a different measure, like per capita personal income (+59.7%), it’s very obvious that Austin has become addicted to Other People’s Money.
And that addiction is fueling a cost-of-living and causing great harm to ordinary people.