The Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a plan to offer homeowners a property tax exemption worth 20% of the appraised value of their home Tuesday.

The exemption, which will go into effect for 2022 valuations, applies only to Bexar County’s portion of a resident’s property tax bill, which includes a tax for roads and flood control. That means that for a home with an appraised value of $300,000, roughly the median value in San Antonio, 20% or $60,000 would be exempt, making the appraised value $240,000 and saving the homeowner about $174. Bexar County’s current tax rate is $0.276331 per $100 of valuation, and the road and flood tax is $0.023668 per $100 of valuation.

“The homestead exemption has been long overdue, but particularly right now, it’s a critical time for our homeowners,” said Commissioner Marialyn Barnard (Pct. 3), who introduced the measure. 

According to data provided by the county, the homestead exemption applies to 358,000 homes, with an average tax savings of $99. It should decrease the county’s property tax revenue by roughly $35.3 million. 

A second measure approved by the court will allow a $30,000 property tax exemption for homeowners age 65 and older from Bexar County Hospital District taxes, beginning with 2022 valuations. It was put forth by Commissioners Rebeca Clay-Flores (Pct. 1) and Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2).

Both tax relief measures passed unanimously. 

The homestead exemptions come as property values in Bexar County continue to increase rapidly, causing tax bills to skyrocket. Under a 2019 Texas law, larger counties, cities and other taxing units have to hold an election if they want to raise 3.5% more property tax revenue than in the previous year. Thus, the Commissioners Court had to do something to lower its tax revenue or face a rollback that would allow taxpayers to vote on lowering the tax rate. 

In past years when rising property values caused a surplus, the court lowered the county’s property tax rate to avoid the rollback, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Tuesday’s plan instead increases the homestead exemption the court set in March for 2021, which was capped at $5,000, and directs relief to property owners who live in their home. It excludes businesses as well as investment properties. A report from the National Association of Realtors projects that 46% percent of homes sold in Bexar County in 2021 were purchased by corporations or limited liability companies.

“It was a choice,” Wolff said of Barnard’s decision to focus on the homestead exemption. “You could do a tax cut for everything and not do homestead, but I think she was on the mark because this is a person’s greatest investment and they ought to be protected.”

Asked whether she had heard from business owners who would prefer a rate decrease that would offer relief for them as well, Barnard said, “Of course they would like that, without a doubt. But this is a foot in the door.”

Bexar County officials don’t yet know the exact revenue figures for the year. Based on estimates provided to Barnard by Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti, her proposal sought the largest homestead exemption allowed under state law.

Even that may not be enough to sufficiently lower the property tax burden enough to keep pace with rising home values. Barnard said the county could still be forced to come back with other methods to lower its property tax revenue, such as a rate decrease.

“That’s my hope and that’s my game plan,” said Barnard.


Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.