SAISD Approves Homestead Tax Exemption

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Lanier High School. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Lanier High School.

Following the outcomes of the November elections, property owners in SAISD will see their property taxes go up considerably. However, a homestead exemption unanimously approved by the SAISD board at its meeting on Nov. 28 may bring relief.

Board President Patti Radle pointed out that while some taxpayers will only have to make minor adjustments to their family budget, others will feel the increase more severely.

“For other people it might mean denting into their budget for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk,” said Radle. “We want to be sensitive to that.”

To alleviate some of the burden for homeowners, especially those with lower home values, the SAISD board voted to adopt an additional homestead tax exemption of at least $5,000 on the entire $1.17 tax rate beginning with the 2017-18 tax year.

District 2 Board of Trustee candidates promise to commit to a Tax Ratification Election.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

District 2 Board of Trustee candidates promise to commit to a Tax Ratification Election.

The exemption will not affect the income the district estimates to receive from the TRE, according to SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

SAISD CFO Larry Garza said that taxpayers will not have to take extra steps to have the exemption applied.

“Those who meet the qualifications for our homestead exemption will automatically have it added into the system,” Garza added.

On Nov. 8, voters approved a permanent 13-cent increase to property taxes in SAISD. They also approved a $450 million bond measure. With these two measures, the combined tax burden over the next five years will steadily increase to pay back the bond. Once the bond has been payed back, the tax rate will decrease until the next bond is passed. The permanent increase from the TRE will not change.

For a home valued at $70,023 – the average taxable value in SAISD – this means that homeowners will pay $91.08 more in taxes for the 2016-17 tax year than they did in 2015-16. By tax year 2020-21, they will pay $175.08 more in taxes than they did in 2015-16, assuming the home’s assessed value does not change.

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Courtesy of SAISD

If you want to find out how the tax increases and the homestead exemption would impact your property, a tool is now available on the SAISD website.

It is, of course, very likely that home values will continue to rise. San Antonio homeowners have seen their home values skyrocket over the past three years, particularly those in neighborhoods adjacent to downtown.

In some SAISD zip codes, assessed home values shot up as much as $60,000 in 2015.

In spite of what, for some, will be a hefty tax increase, the measures both enjoyed wide support.

In all seven districts within SAISD, the measures passed with 66-76% voter approval.

The lowest margin was in in District 3, which includes Highlands High School, where the TRE passed with 66.95%. The highest was in District 5, which includes Lanier High School, where the bond passed with 75.65%. In District 1, which has some of the highest average taxable property values in SAISD, the bond passed with 73.39% and the TRE with 72.7%.

Only one precinct, 1089 near Mission Academy, voted against the TRE. District representatives estimate that the precinct reported around 100 voters total.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez speaks about the importance of empowering English language learners.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez speaks about the importance of empowering English language learners.

In a public hearing before the meeting, the board members celebrated the work of the Blue Ribbon Task Force that recommended the facilities and funding priorities and credited strong messaging and the trust that the community has placed in SAISD leadership.

Martinez’s ambitious vision and a board free of dysfunction and infighting have inspired increased investment from private citizens, businesses, and nonprofits, according to SAISD Foundation Executive Director Judy Geelhoed. That confidence appears to have passed to the voters.

“I want to thank my colleagues on the board for staying united,” Trustee Art Valdez (D6) said. “We made a great move, and it’s going to pay off for all of us.”

The TRE was a bold ask for the district. Similar measures have failed in the past, so not everyone was confident that both measures should go on the ballot at once.

Maria Hernandez, whose three nieces are teachers, shares a laugh with SAISD Board President Patti Radle while blockwalking.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Maria Hernandez, whose three nieces are teachers, shares a laugh with SAISD Board President Patti Radle while blockwalking for Tax Ratification Election votes.

“It was a tremendous challenge, but it was a marvelous conversation,” Radle said. “I think we’re glad that we were bold about it.”

Martinez conducted a series of town hall meetings at every high school in the district to make the case for the ballot measures. Much of the success was credited to the word of mouth efforts by the Blue Ribbon Task Force and the board.

“Thanks to all of my colleagues for having the gift of the gab,” Trustee Olga Hernandez said.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force also led the PAC that campaigned for the ballot measures. Radle mentioned upcoming needs for a new task force to oversee the bond and TRE as they move forward.

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