Travis County owed $83.5 million in unpaid taxes

Travis County needs to collect $83.5 million from more than 27,000 property owners with unpaid taxes, Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant says .               

Delinquent bills went out earlier in February.

"We want to encourage them to get with us as soon as possible to pay the full amount because penalty and interests start at 7% and go up each month,” Elfant said.

Elfant says a payment plan is okay and they're happy to do it, just make sure the county knows you're trying.

"The way to avoid having your property foreclosed on is to communicate with the tax office.  When we send you a letter, please respond.  When we try to call you, please return the call," Elfant said.

The $83.5 million is on par with previous years, according to Elfant.
"Collections is about average from what we've seen in recent years.  But that last 3%, the $83 million is always the biggest challenge because this represents the group of people who are having more difficult times and being able to pay all their taxes and we certainly want to work with them," Elfant said.

Obviously the tax office is a sensitive place for some.  We spoke with an East Austin woman who didn't want her face on TV but she was ok with doing an interview.

She says she set up a payment plan in January but still got a delinquent note so she came in to check on that.

"The tax rate has gone so high that middle income people can't afford it because we're all set on an income but...Austin is growing and I don't understand why property taxes double or triple up," she said.

She says she's paying about $7,000 for the home she's lived in for three decades.

"Next year if it goes up two more thousand, I'll probably lose my property," she said.

Elfant says affordability is a growing issue in Travis County.  He says citizens need to have that conversation with elected officials.

"State legislators that decide what services we're going to pay for and how we're going to pay for them...and the property tax in Texas is the predominant way that the legislature has selected for us to pay.  And in Travis County that's hurting a lot of people because the values are going up so fast," Elfant said.

The penalty and interest goes up to 24% for a property owner who goes an entire year without paying their tax bill.
Of course the end game, after multiple letters and phone calls is a lawsuit and foreclosure but that process takes years.


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