How Cap Metro is crippling Leander and punishing homeowners

Leander homeowners, businesses and landowners pay the highest property tax rates of any neighboring city in Williamson County:

      • 10% more than Liberty Hill
      • 23% more than Cedar Park
      • 25% more than Austin
      • 31% more than Round Rock
      • 31% more than Georgetown

The City of Leander property tax rate is $.55 / $100 valuation. Leander ISD’s property tax rate, one of the highest in the area, is $1.51 / $100 valuation. This combination explains why an increasing number of longtime Leander homeowners are being taxed out of their homes.

The culprit for the high city tax rate? Cap Metro.

Cap Metro currently extracts $1.00 for every* $100 in taxable retail sales transacted in or originating in Leander brick and mortar establishments. That one percent sales tax is forecast to yield $5.4M to Cap Metro from Leander transactions for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The amount Cap Metro extracts from Leander consumers will only become more painful due to the recent South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc. decision. That decision is requiring a rapidly increasing number of online, out-of-state retailers to begin collecting sales tax on all online purchases by Leander residents.  And like the Monopoly banker, Cap Metro enters every $100 transaction and essentially says, “Thank you very much. That will be $1.00.”  Actually, they don’t even say “Please” or “Thank you”, much less offer any additional value to Leander residents in return.

If Leander was not contracting with Cap Metro, the city could retain that additional one percent tax. The council could then apply that revenue to the Maintenance and Operations (M & O) budget, reducing the property tax burden on Leander homeowners by $5.4 million, or over 10 cents per $100 property valuation.

Using the tool below, Leander residents are able to search their neighborhood to estimate their property tax reduction under this scenario.

Tale of two cities

In comparison, residents of adjacent Cedar Park  wisely voted to withdraw from Cap Metro. They chose to apply the previously Cap Metro-bound tax to a combination of property tax relief and economic development.  As a result, Cedar Park’s sales tax revenues now comprise 30% of their general fund revenue compared to Leander’s 14%. Consequently, Leander residents pay an M & O property tax rate ($.34/$100) which is 47% higher than Cedar Park residents ($.23/$100).

What most Leander residents do not realize is that Metro Rail was not intended to benefit Leander or its citizens. It was to benefit the City of Austin, a handful of local landowners, and several special interest groups. It was sold to the very small percentage of registered voters who actually went to the polls and voted based on the false allusion of low cost mass transit, reduced traffic congestion, and direct access to shopping at Highland Mall. Yes, you read that correctly.  Highland Mall, not Lakeline Mall.

Reality check

MetroRail is neither low cost, nor is it mass transit in comparison to other urban rail services, especially given the physical constraints of railcar size/number and the mostly single-track rail route. At least 86 times per weekday, traffic congestion at Leander’s rail crossings is exacerbated by MetroRail passage and MetroExpress(bus) safety stops.

The less than 1%* of Leander residents who do periodically use public transportation often claim the trains are standing room only. MetroRail and MetroExpress departures and arrivals in Leander are frequently empty or near-empty.  The standing-room-only experience is typically only after in-bound stops and before out-bound stops at Austin’s Lakeline and Howard stations.  One or two early morning and late afternoon commutes occasionally offer the same experience. Not a compelling proposition, especially during flu season.

Solutions and decisions

More MetroRail/Express departures and resident riders are not the solutions. The question for Leander’s future is not how to efficiently ship more people into Austin, but rather how to attract high salary-paying businesses to Leander that allow residents to live, work and spend in Leander. By participating in Cap Metro, Leander homeowners are not only forfeiting property tax relief, they are putting their city at a significant disadvantage to other nearby cities which are attracting these type businesses.

Cap Metro has had over 30 years to make its case. It failed Leander.

Will Leander residents decide to continue throwing away millions to subsidize a very expensive, limited-benefit transportation “solution”? Or are they committed to build their city into a prosperous place to work, shop, and live.  Choosing the latter starts with ending the one-way relationship with Cap Metro. The long term effect means keeping sales tax revenue local, retaining more of their hard-earned money through lower property taxes, and attracting healthy economic engines.

 

Search your subdivision name for your estimated annual cost** of participating in CapMetro (select ‘Next’ to scroll through results):

 SUBDIVISION 2019
CAP METRO EST. ANNUAL
PARTICIPATION COST/HOMEOWNER
Angel Springs $606
Atkin Addition To Leander$246
Bagdad Estates $411
Benbrook Ranch $335
Bluffs At Crystal Falls$307
Bluffs at Crystal Falls Sec 2$392
Bluffs at Crystal Falls Sec 3$337
Borho $396
Boulders At Crystal Falls$346
Bryson$364
Cap Rock at Crystal Falls Phs 2$485
Cap Rock at Crystal Falls Phs I$458
Carneros Ranch $320
Catalina Ranch $395
Circle Diamond $355
Cold Springs $324
Connellys Crossing $254
County Glen $231
Crystal Crossing $278
Deerbrooke$298
Enclave At Maya Vista$238
Estates Of North Creek$216
Fairways at Crystal Falls $468
Fairways at Crystal Falls Sec 2$521
Fairways at Crystal Falls Sec 4$490
Fairways at Crystal Falls Sec 5$605
Fairways Phs 1 at Crystal Falls$450
Fairways Phs 1-A at Crystal Falls$499
Falcon Oaks $158
Friske $143
Giddens Weskim $532
Grand Mesa at Crystal Falls$513
Grand Mesa at Crystal Falls Amd$761
Grand Mesa at Crystal Falls II$707
Grand Mesa III at Crystal Falls$640
Grand Mesa III-A at Crystal Falls$733
Grand Mesa IV at Crystal Falls$651
Greatwood$423
Hampton I$627
Hawkes Landing Ph 1 $285
Hazlewood $321
Heritage Glen Sec 1 (Amd) $267
Hernandos Hideaway $233
Hidden Mesa First $361
High Chaparral $88
High Gabriel$488
Highlands At Crystal Falls$416
Highmeadow Estates $439
Highway Village $355
Horizon Park $250
Kittie Hill Acres $481
Lakeline Ranch $286
Leander Crossing $249
Live Oak Ranch $349
Magnolia Creek $267
Mason Creek $204
Mason Creek North$157
Mason Ranch$291
North Creek $209
Northside Meadow $381
Oak Creek$256
Oak Ridge $297
Old Town $242
Old Town Village $263
Overlook Estates $593
Palmera Ridge$328
Palmera Ridge$328
Pecan Creek $410
Pleasant Hill Estate $456
Reagans Overlook$660
Reagans Overlook$660
Ridgeoaks $235
Ridgewood North $210
Ridgewood South $253
Ridgmar Landing$409
Sarita Valley $466
Savanna Ranch $291
South San Gabriel $361
Starlight Village Condo $490
Stewart Crossing$281
Stifflemire$409
Tierra Alto Condo$234
Tierra North $225
Timberline West $272
Trails At Leander Condo $149
Trails End $211
Travisso Phs 1 $583
Travisso Phs 2 $484
Valley View $314
Villas At Vista Ridge$272
Vista Ridge $283
Westview Meadows $216
Westwood$233
Wiley Creek Estates $326
Woods At Crystal Falls$254
Woods At Mason Creek$254

Copyright © 2019 Don Stroud

 

*U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey/Community Impact Newspaper, March 2019, p. 25

**Average cost per homeowner based upon average assessed value of all homes in each subdivision.