San Antonio residents age 65 and older might not be taking advantage of a common-sense property tax exemption, but the City wants to change that by creating a data partnership among Greater San Antonio’s biggest public entities.

In what could be the first of several public benefits to be realized through regional data sharing, the City aims to automatically enroll homeowners who meet the age requirements for homestead exemptions.

“There’s a whole lot of people not taking advantage of exemptions in the city of San Antonio,” said City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who introduced the measure to the Council’s Innovation and Technology Committee.

“We want to make sure everyone knows what exemptions they qualify for,” Treviño said. “This is just an example of how not sharing data creates gaps or holes within various departments.”

In Texas, homeowners age 65 and older qualify for property tax assistance. Homeowners 64 and younger must live in a home as their primary residence to qualify, but those age 65 and older do not need to establish residency to receive the exemption.

The exemption lowers property taxes by removing part of a home’s value from taxation. For example, a homeowner with a $100,000 home who qualifies for a $25,000 homestead exemption will pay taxes on $75,000 in value.

Of the 340,000 homes in the appraisal district, 81 percent have owners’ birth dates associated with them, said Scott Griscom, assistant chief appraiser at the Bexar Appraisal District, adding that 3,300 homeowners were automatically enrolled this year for homestead exemptions based on the birth date information the district has.

Griscom said the data-sharing partnership could help the organization fill in the gaps for the remainder of homesteads on record.

Craig Hopkins, chief information officer at the City, said many agencies are part of the discussion as the City works to create data-sharing agreements. Among those are CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System, Hopkins said.

He said the goal is to have a draft agreement ready for consideration by April.

Griscom said the appraisal district’s automatic enrollments currently rely on data sent by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which provides driver license records. Birth dates on the licenses are then verified, and if people meet the age requirements they are automatically enrolled for exemptions.

More than 120,000 Bexar County residents receive over-65 homestead exemptions. About 10,500 residents receive disabled-person exemptions, and 52,800 receive disabled-veteran exemptions, Griscom said.

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez, who chairs the committee, said this is the City’s first “dip of the toe” in interagency data sharing.

“This highlights the fact that our agencies produce tremendous amounts of data,” Pelaez said. “There are opportunities for that data to be put together [in useful ways].”

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.