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This Texas bill would allow Lake Austin shoreline properties to 'secede' from City of Austin

Texas Senate Bill 659 would allow some homeowners along Lake Austin to secede from the City of Austin, thus avoiding paying the City property taxes.

AUSTIN, Texas — A bill filed in the State Senate is aiming to allow hundreds of Lake Austin shoreline properties to disannex or "secede" from the City of Austin. 

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) said she filed Senate Bill 659 because the Lake Austin properties – which had a property tax exemption granted to them in 1986 but repealed in 2019 by the Austin City Council – were not receiving City services. Those lakefront properties are now being charged property taxes from the City of Austin for the first time.

"I'm advocating for the folks who are really struggling to pay the taxes that aren't getting any services," Buckingham said during Monday's meeting of the Senate Committee on Local Government.

RELATED: Austin City Council members vote to repeal 'Mistake on the Lake'

Buckingham's drafted legislation has been met with some pushback. 

Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) told KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman that she does not support Buckingham's bill. Eckhardt questioned Buckingham's claim that the properties were not receiving City services. 

The Statesman reported that most of the area does receive services from Austin Energy and falls under the jurisdiction of both the Austin Police Department (APD) and Austin Fire Department (AFD). However, not much of the area is serviced by Austin Water, according to the Statesman.

Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker testified against the bill, saying it would force the City to "reconsider its investment and the location of this fire station," which is supposed to be built at Westlake Drive and Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360). 

"We could not with good conscience continue to recommend building a station in a location that primarily benefits an area that would not be contributing to this cause," Baker said in the committee meeting.

On the flip side of the coin, property owners from the area testified in favor of the bill. The Statesman reported that homeowner Carrie Ann Finch said her property taxes – with a home appraised at $872,711 by the Travis Central Appraisal District – rose nearly 40% this year.

"This additional tax burden is unfair, and it will eventually make it impossible for me and ... other long-term residents to continue to live in our homes," Finch said in the committee meeting.

The bill was left pending in the committee, online records show.

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