EL PASO, Texas – Upper Valley homeowner Perla Aguilera will have to reassess her family’s spending habits as she prepares to pay higher property taxes this year.
Like thousands of El Paso residents, Aguilera saw a spike in her home valuation in 2021. This means that although some tax entities have kept the same tax rates for their proposed annual budgets or have them slightly lowered, she will always have a much higher property tax bill.
Aguilera, assistant principal of Santa Teresa High School, married and mother of two daughters aged 6 and 8, said her family moved into their house in 2008. She is in the process of obtaining a homeownership exemption that would significantly reduce her tax invoice. Homeowners who occupy their own homes are eligible for a homestead exemption, but they must apply for the exemption.
The property tax bill on his Upper Valley home has risen 43% – over $ 1,700 – since 2012. That includes $ 700 more they will have to pay this year over 2020, an increase of 14%.
âFor us, this impacts our quality of life. So we really have to think about – can we take this vacation? Said Aguilera. âCan we really enroll girls in their sports activities or even in school support services?
Aguilera said the family is also reassessing keeping their youngest daughter Claire in private school.
âWe may not be able to afford the tuition fees because the taxes are so high,â Aguilera said.
El Paso Matters has looked at trends in tax rates and property assessments – the two things that determine a homeowner’s total property tax bill – since 2012. Landowners within the city limits of El Paso typically pay property taxes to five government entities – a school district, the city, El Paso County, the hospital district that operates the University Medical Center and El Paso Community College.
The impact of tax increases varies depending on the school district where the homes are located. But in each of the three main districts within the city limits of El Paso, which include the school districts of El Paso, Ysleta, and Socorro, the total property tax bill for the mid-value home has gone up sharply. increased over the past decade.
In the El Paso and Ysleta school districts, where the majority of homes are older and there has been a steady decline in student enrollment, the tax bill on a mid-value home – such as calculated by El Paso Central Assessment District – has increased since 2012 by over $ 500 after adjusting for inflation, an increase of over 14% and 20%, respectively.
In the Socorro school district, which has seen new construction and an increase in home appraisals, the total tax bill on the average value home has increased by more than $ 900 after adjusting for inflation, or 27%, since 2012.
As property taxes have risen, the median household income in El Paso – meaning half of households earn more and the other half earn less – fell 2.6% inflation-adjusted between 2012 and 2019, the most recent year available, according to the U.S. Census. Office.
The main driver of the increase in property tax bills since 2012 has been the city of El Paso which, according to the school district, is responsible for half to almost two-thirds of the total increase in taxes for houses. average value, based on El Paso Matters analysis. shows.
The city of El Paso now consumes a much larger share of the total tax bill for an average-value home than it did a decade ago.
Reduce elsewhere to pay taxes
Eliza Salas owns two homes in Far East El Paso, one she has owned for over 10 years and is now a rental and one that her family recently bought and moved into three years ago.
Property taxes on the home she has owned for more than 10 years have increased 57% since 2012, in part because they lost the homestead exemption when they moved into their new home in 2018. The their long-standing home tax bill is increasing by over $ 500 this year, or 16%.
Salas, a stay-at-home mom, said she estimated they would pay around $ 11,000 in property taxes between the two homes. The bill means they have to reassess their budget for everything from groceries to travel.
âWe (also) have to account for our mortgage payment, property taxes on the other houseâ¦ home insurance and any other extra expenses that could be an emergency. So we definitely need to budget based on what we need for year-end spending, âsaid Salas.
Abel Cruz, a retiree who has owned his home in Far East El Paso since 2015, is keeping a close eye on his property tax bill.
âI have noticed that the property taxes on my house have increased almost every year. So I keep an eye on these things, âhe said.
The cost of his property tax bill has increased by almost $ 800 – 36% – since he bought the home in 2015. Most of that increase – $ 600 – will happen this year.
Cruz said he had filed a protest this year against the assessment of his home with the El Paso Central Assessment District, which was “nowhere”. Despite the increases, he said he was not too concerned about the financial impact.
âI can honestly say it’s not going to break the bank or that I will have a hard time paying. I’m very lucky since I get my pension and my social security and everything else. So I’m fine. (The increase in property taxes) wouldn’t be something that I think would negatively impact my life, âsaid Cruz.
“It’s still a little tight”
Rosemary Neill, a retiree who owns a house in Kern Place, said that she and her husband Robert Neill Jr. bought the house in 1973 for about $ 23,850.
The home is currently valued for tax purposes at $ 193,290, an increase from $ 149,973 a year ago. State law protects homeowners with property exemptions by capping an annual increase in taxable assessment at 10%. But for Neill, his valuation will continue to increase by 10% in 2022 and an additional 8% in 2023 under the law.
Neill has been somewhat shielded from tax increases over the past decade, as the city has increased property tax exemptions for people over 65 and school districts have softened their homestead exemption.
But all of those savings are likely to be wiped out over the next couple of years due to the steep rise in her property value this year, a common occurrence in El Paso.
Neill said that even though she paid off the mortgage on the house after her husband died in 2015, she still had an account open to pay her property tax bill and home insurance. She budgets all increases by putting money aside on a monthly basis so that she is able to manage.
âMost people live paycheck to paycheck and so layoffs are going to be a really tough thing for them. And I worry. I get the exemption for those over 65, but I always know that this cost that I don’t pay is borne by the families who don’t get this extra exemption, âsaid Neill.
She said she is also concerned about the increase in property taxes by the city of El Paso to pay a a large amount of debt not approved by voters is unsustainable.
âWhen you don’t have a lot of growth in the city of El Paso, that means our per capita debt is just going to increase because there aren’t enough people to spread it out,â Neil said.
She said she was concerned these factors would strain landlords and tenants.
âFamilies are in a rush, in a rush and in a rush and I’m not sure it’s healthy for a community that wants to continue providing a good base of public services,â she said.
Julie Lucas, who owns a house in central El Paso, said her rising property tax bill was difficult to manage.
Lucas said she bought her home in 2015, but recently saw an increase in her property tax bill.
His home’s total tax bill of $ 80,000 is increasing by over $ 200 this year, a 13% increase in one year.
Lucas said she struggled to pay the property tax bill despite the homestead exemption, a Veterans Affairs allowance after her husband died and a part-time job in a pantry.
âI feel like yes, pretty much, I’m living paycheck after paycheck. Even though I get the allowance and stuff, it’s still very tight, âLucas said.
She said she was financially helping her two adult daughters – one with medication and the other, who lives out of state and works in the restaurant industry, who cannot always pay her monthly bills. due to the effects of the pandemic on business.
âHonestly, I don’t know how I’m going to find the taxes. Hope they could maybe make some sort of payment plan with me. You know, some $ 100 a month, maybe until I get paid, âLucas said. âI don’t know what I’m going to do this year. “
The city tax office offers payment plans for people over 65 and people with disabilities.
How to reduce your tax bill
Make sure you have requested all of the exemptions for which you are eligible. Homestead exemptions and exemptions over 65 are the most common. You must apply for these exemptions. Call the El Paso Central Assessment District at 915-780-2000 for more information.
Protest your property valuation if you think it’s too high. El Paso CAD often makes deals with homeowners to reduce appraisals. The next mass reassessment of residential properties in El Paso County will take place in 2024.