In Texas, property tax levies can be as individual as homeowners themselves

State lawmakers are trying to reform a complicated taxing system where everything from suburban growth to gentrification and a homeowner’s age influence how much Texans pay their local governments.

A new development in Austin. Property taxes in many parts of Texas have skyrocketed since 2013 due in part to rising home values.
A new development in Austin. Property taxes in many parts of Texas have skyrocketed since 2013 due in part to rising home values.  Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

In Texas, property taxes keep local governments like cities, counties and school districts operating and pay for everything from police officers' salaries to classroom textbooks. Here's how the taxes are calculated and how they could change in the 2019 legislative session.

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How much Texas property owners pay every year in property taxes is determined by a basic formula based on the appraised value of their land and buildings, the exemptions for which they qualify, and the tax rates set by local government entities like cities, counties and school districts. But other forces can influence those annual tax bills.

State law requires that property appraisals reflect their market value. Texas' population grew from 25.1 million to 28.7 million between 2010 and 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. That pushed up the demand for housing, so those market values have also surged across the state — from gentrifying urban neighborhoods to sprawling suburban enclaves.

As state lawmakers try to slow the growth of property taxes this year, we explored how different factors affected the property tax bills for four Texas homes between 2013 and 2018. The properties reflect the state's varied geographies, neighborhoods, homeowner demographics and tax situations.

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