Texas voters to decide on lowering property taxes Saturday

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Saturday, Texas voters will decide whether to lower property taxes statewide.

So far, voter numbers show not many people are headed to the polls, but that could change as people rush to cast their ballots on May 7. This election day, voters will decide on statewide and local ballot items. 

KXAN is tracking turnout across the area. As we reported in late April, early data shows out of the more than 17 million registered voters, nearly 6% to 7% already went to the polls. 

Our data team narrowed in on early voting results in Travis County. Out of the nearly 900,000 registered voters, less than 7% voted early. Low voter turnout is expected in non-presidential elections like Saturday’s, even though many homeowners could see their property taxes lowered with the two statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Proposition 1: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the reduction of the amount of a limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for general elementary and secondary public school purposes on the residence homestead of a person who is elderly or disabled to reflect any statutory reduction from the preceding tax year in the maximum compressed rate of the maintenance and operations taxes imposed for those purposes on the homestead.” 

This means, Prop 1 would freeze the frozen school property tax bills for the elderly and Texans with disabilities beginning in 2023. It would also lower their school property tax bills year after year.

Proposition 2: “The constitutional amendment increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation for public school purposes from $25,000 to $40,000.” 

This means, Prop 2 would increase the homestead exemption Texans can take on their school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000.

For Travis County voters like Ted Clem, he’s familiarizing himself with all the items on the ballot just ahead of Election Day. Timing kept him from voting early, and he doesn’t know if that will keep others from casting their ballots, too.  

“I have not voted. I’m aware of the election, and I believe we should vote in every election, so I will be out tomorrow,” Clem said. “Based on what I know [voters] will not come out in droves tomorrow … It’s just apathy.” 

David Thomason, a political science professor at St. Edwards University, said while low-voter turnout is not uncommon in Texas, especially during May elections, he cites confusing ballot language on statewide propositions, impact to homeowners and access to voting as potential barriers this time around. 

“To look at the numbers that are this low, they are not representative of what our democracy should stand for,” Thomason said. “While the property tax is one of the significant issues in Texas politics, they’re marginal with respect to the kinds of relief that they would provide to various groups affected by the two propositions.” 

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