El Paso homeowners are going to see something more rare than a unicorn – a significant reduction on their property tax bills.

An $18 billion tax break package approved by the Legislature this year will mean that most El Paso homeowners will see their school property taxes – the largest part of their property tax bill – drop by hundreds of dollars.

“That means I can apply it to other things; to save it, to something that might come up – unexpected expenses and so it helps,” said Abel Cruz, who owns a home in the Socorro school district.

Cruz, is a retiree who has owned his home in Far East El Paso since 2015. He closely monitors his property tax bill and said any potential savings is helpful.

“It’ll pay for everything that has gone up,” Cruz said.

The savings for individual taxpayers will depend on how much their property valuation increased or decreased this year. But the vast majority of homeowners with a homestead exemption on property they own and live in will see savings when tax bills go out at the end of the year.

An El Paso Matters analysis found that the average-value home in the county’s three largest districts will see school tax savings of $533 to $783.

The savings are driven by Senate Bill 2, which generally reduced school tax rates across Texas and increased the homestead exemption on owner-occupied homes from $40,000 last year to $100,000 going forward. That exemption essentially means that the first $100,000 in home valuation isn’t subject to school tax.

The changes will sharply reduce the property taxes collected by school districts, but the state will make up that shortfall from a massive state budget surplus that built up in recent years.

“The biggest budget change was the decrease in local tax collection and the increase in state revenue,” El Paso Independent School District Chief Financial Officer Martha Aguirre said. “As the state adopted or implemented the bill to support our property taxpayers, one of the guarantees that they made was they would make the district whole.”

Voters must approve the tax changes in SB 2 in the Nov. 7 election, but the measure is expected to pass handily.

Homeowners who have exemptions for being over 65 or having disabilities also will see a reduction in their bills based on adjustments to their rates that are frozen to coincide with the lower school tax rates.

“I think it’s gonna be a positive thing,” said Rick Snow, president of the Greater El Paso Association of Realtors. “I still think there’s work that can be done to get the taxes down more, but this is a plus.”

While the school district’s portion of a tax bill will go down, other governing bodies’ tax rates may cut into those savings.

The city adopted its tax rate Aug. 15. Although the city adopted the no-new-revenue rate, the owner of an average value home of $185,360 will see an increase of about $44 in city taxes.

The El Paso County Commissioners Court recently approved two tax rates that will cost the average homeowner about $138 more a year in property taxes.

Elida S. Perez is a senior reporter for El Paso Matters. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper Tree and communities...