• Austin City Council Presents a Challenge
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    speakersJust hours before community members were to attend a property tax appraisal forum in Austin on May 19, the City of Austin released its study showing the undervaluation of commercial properties in the city.  The report underscores the inequities of the current property tax appraisal system and the need for reform.

    In addition, at the forum, Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro-tem Kathie Tovo spoke about their push for Council to direct the City Manager to file a petition to challenge the Travis County Appraisal District’s appraisals of this year’s commercial properties. Just over a week later, homeowners attended a City Council meeting to make public comments in support of their directive and Council unanimously voted in favor of the challenge.

    Moving forward with the challenge shows not only that the Council understands that the property tax system is skewed, but that local action is important to make changes happen at the state level.

    Council: You Know You Better Finally Decide, The Austin Chronicle, May 29, 2015

    Austin to challenge commercial property appraisals, Austin Business Journal, May 29, 2015

    Council moves forward with appraisal challenge, Austin Monitor, May 28, 2015

    Austin Council to file unprecedented commercial appraisal challenge, Austin Statesman, Mat 28, 2015

    Austin may file challenge of commercial property appraisals, Community Impact, May 27, 2015

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Victory in State Legislature!
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    For years, no one believed that any responsible property tax reform could pass the legislature in Texas. But after more than a year of campaigning from Houston to San Antonio and El Paso to Austin, Real Values for Texas is shaking those assumptions.

    The State Legislature Takes a Step Toward Reform

    On Saturday, May 23, Governor Abbott signed HB 2083 into law. The legislation doesn’t solve our RVT GIFproperty tax inequities, but now accepted standard appraisal methods and techniques have to be used, and that is a step forward.

    The bill, introduced by Representative Darby, was referred to the House Ways & Means Committee. Once in committee, the state’s cottage industry of tax consultants and real estate speculators pushed to include language that would specifically allow property owners to use comparable properties outside the county when appealing their property taxes. That would have meant that an H.E.B protesting its taxes in thriving Dallas could compare their property valuation to a grocery store in struggling Detroit. Without the hard work of Real Values for Texas supporters, homeowners and community allies, the committee would have accepted this change and made our broken property tax system worse.

    While this legislation is a victory, comprehensive reform must go farther. For a fair, transparent and effective property tax system to exist in Texas, the state must pass legislation that:

    • Ensures property tax appeals be based on market value;
    • Requires that owners of large commercial properties disclose sales price;
    • Closes loopholes that allow and incentivize manipulation of the appraisal and protest system; this includes ending excessive attorney/tax consultant fees and increasing protest review time for appraisal districts.

     

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  • Austin Forum Sheds Light on Need for Appraisal Reform
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    This past week, about 300 people attended a forum hosted by Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea about 10941507_1647990878746670_4290078598628909774_nproperty tax appraisals.  With rising property taxes, people were excited to find out about different ways they could reform the system and make sure that commercial property owners were paying their fair share.

    The forum panel, which consisted of Travis County Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro-tem Kathie Tovo, Travis County Tax Accessor Bruce Elfant, Center for Public Policy Priorities Dick Lavine and Real Values for Texas’s own Leigh Murrin, highlighted the loopholes in state law and the many barriers in place that make it difficult for a fair and effective property tax appraisal system.

    In addition, speakers also spoke about ways we can fix our broken system.  Examples included changing state laws to allow sales disclosure of commercial properties, allowing the appraisal districts to be awarded attorney’s fees, and setting standards for what is considered a comparable property during an appraisal appeal.

    The Mayor and Mayor Pro-tem also spoke about what can be done locally, including Tovo’s push for a petition to protest the City’s appraised values and a resolution to require any commercial property owner to pay property taxes on the real market value of their property if they receive a city tax incentive, much like the “clawback” provision Waco City Council passed in 2012.

    Just hours before the forum began, the City of Austin also released it’s study of Travis County Appraisal District’s (TCAD’s) appraisals.  Their analysis found that Travis County commercial properties were undervalued by 53% just last year.  Mayor Pro-tem Kathie Tovo stressed the importance of changing this and stated that once commercial property owners are paying their fair share, homeowners will see some relief.

    Many attendees expressed their disapproval for the system but understood the importance of taking action and the need for statewide reform.

    Coverage from the event is below:

    Point Austin: The Appraisal Scam: TCAD can’t accurately appraise
    Michael King, Austin Chronicle, May 22, 2015

    Property tax system messed up; nobody happy
    Sunny Sone, Austin Monitor, May 21, 2015

    Council may challenge “undervalued” appraisals
    Tyler Whitson, Austin Monitor, May 20, 2015

    Austin, Travis County leaders host property tax forum
    Ashley Goudeau, KVUE, May 19, 2015

    City Report On Tax Appraisal Inequities Draws Outrage
    Bill Oakley, Austin Affordability, May 21, 2015

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  • TAKE ACTION: Tweet the Governor!
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    There is a lot of talk around Austin about property taxes, but we only have a little over a week to maketwitter sure we see a victory around POSITIVE property tax appraisal reform.

    Last time you took action on this bill, the Ways and Means Committee dropped the harmful language that was added by the Committee and now this bill helps bring us a step closer to reform.

    Tweet at Governor Greg Abbott today and tell him to sign HB 2083 into law.  HB 2083 requires that standard appraisal methods and techniques be used during an appraisal protest. It doesn’t fix the whole problem at all, but it is a step in the right direction.  A veto of even this modest improvement would be a slap in the face to homeowners and our appraisal standards.

    Here are some sample tweets:

    • @GovAbbott Sign #HB2083 into law and require standard appraisal methods and techniques be used during appraisal appeals!
    • @GovAbbott I urge you to sign #HB2083 into law to bring us a step closer to a fairer property tax appraisal system.
    • @GovAbbott, time is running out.  Sign #HB2083 into law and help reform property tax appraisals in TX.  It’s time for Real Values!
    • @GovAbbott Sign #HB2083 into law and help to reduce some burden on homeowners who pay more when comm property owners don’t pay their share.

    It’s time for Real Values for Texas — Values that are based on accepted standard appraisal methods and techniques.  This seems like a no brainer and most of us thought this was already in place, but big industry like the Realtors and tax consultants don’t want to play fair on any piece of the law.

    Time is running out.  Tweet at Governor Abbott today and let him know you support the passage of HB 2083.

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  • Senator Ellis Files Bill to Create a More Fair Property Tax System
    Senator Ellis Files Bill to Create a More Fair Property Tax System
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    “Every city has services it provides that are vital to the health and safety of our communities,” Jerry Gonzales, San Antonio homeowner. “When commercial property owners manipulate the system and pay taxes on less than the true value of their properties, homeowners are left to make up that difference or we lose those services.

    Luckily, we have elected officials like Senator Ellis who are willing to stand up for homeowners.

    Today, Real Values for Texas homeowners and coalition partners went to the Texas State Capitol to stand with Senator Ellis, D-13, at a press conference as he introduced a bill that has the potential to create a more fair property tax system in Texas.

    At the press conference, Beverly Ortiz, Real Values for Texas campaign director highlightedRVTpresser3 the hardships many homeowners across Texas are now facing under current property tax law. Current law allows many commercial property owners manipulate the system to drive down property values by up to 40 percent.

    Then came a solution when Senator Ellis laid out the details of his bill. The legislation would curb the very practice that burdens homeowners most. It would ensure that commercial property owners protesting under the state’s “equal and uniform” provision actually compare their valuation to similar properties, instead of the much looser current standard.

    That means that large commercial property owners, like those that own the building at 6565 N MacArthur Blvd in Irving, Texas, will have to present more examples of other properties that are similar to theirs before being granted a reduction on their appraisal value. In 2013, they purchased the building for $46.6 million and the same year final reduced appraisal was only $28.9 million.

    As the stands now, appraisal districts often settle before going to court with a large property owner who is protesting their appraisal because the district just doesn’t have the money. Event if the appraisal district wins in court they aren’t awarded any attorney fees.totten

    Fortunately, Senator Ellis’s bill also grants the right for an appraisal district to collect attorney’s fees if they win in court. Not only does this offer some financial relief to the appraisal district, it also deters the practice many commercial property owners have of routinely appealing their appraisals year after year, regardless of the merits of their case.Following Senator Ellis, Vicki Totten spoke about the her neighbors in Austin who have been living in the same homes for over 30 years but cannot afford to pay their rising property tax rates on their fixed income and are being forced to move.

    “Homeowners should not have to move because commercial property owners in our community have the money and resources to routinely manipulate the system to their advantage. A fair property tax system doesn’t displace our elderly, who did it right by planning ahead only to be told they cannot afford their property taxes,” said Totten.

    Austin homeowners aren’t the only one’s affected.

    Jerry Gonzales, from San Antonio also attended the press conference: “Every city has services it provides that are vital to the health and safety of our communities. When commercial property owners manipulate the system and pay taxes on less than the true value of their properties, homeowners are left to make up that difference or we lose those services. In Dallas, schools are closing, library hours are being cut and trash service is being reduced. It’s time for real values in Texas.”

    Senator Ellis filed Senate Bill 1084 yesterday and we hope to see it move to committee soon. Join us in calling Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to move the the bill into committee today. 

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  • What’s Needed for a Fair, Transparent and Effective System?
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    Since the legislative session began on January 13, 2015, there has been a lot of talk about property taxes and the appraisal system. As people sent in their property taxes recently, many were probably wondering if this legislature is actually going to do anything that will create a fairer system in Texas.

    Currently, over 30 bills have been filed that address property taxes in Texas. Thus far, nothing has been comprehensive enough to create a fairer system for homeowners. Homeowners would still be burdened because commercial property owners would be allowed to manipulate the system and shirk their tax responsibilities.

    In 1997, a law was created which took only 19 seconds to pass changed how large commercial property owners could protest their property taxes. The law made it easier for large commercial property owners to protest their appraised property value based on the median value of a reasonable number of comparable properties. There were no guidelines set to determine what was considered reasonable or comparable.

    In 2013, another law was passed that stated if a property owner won their protest, the appraisal district would have to provide more evidence to raise the property value the following year if the the property owner protested the appraisal again.

    Homeowners are done lining property tax consultants’ pockets and making up for large commercial property owners who take advantage of the system. That’s why Real Values for Texas, today, sent a letter to our legislators asking them to stand up for homeowners and work for a fair, transparent and effective property tax system in Texas that includes:

    • Property tax appeals based on market value;
    • Requirement that owners of large commercial properties disclose sales price;
    • Closing loopholes that allow and incentivize manipulation of the appraisal and protest system; this includes ending excessive attorney/tax consultant fees and increasing protest review time for appraisal districts.

    There is some hope. Senator Watson, D14, has filed two bills, SB 280 and SB 281. Both begin to address some of the loopholes that make it easier for large commercial property owners to receive up to a 40% discount when they protest their appraisals.

    SB 280 helps to define a comparable property under the equal and uniform law created in 1997. The bill would require that any comparable meet these criteria:

    • Be within the same district of the property being protested
    • Have similar characteristics as defined by property code
    • Meet appraisal standards
    • Exceeds comparable properties value or the appraisal ratio by AT LEAST 10 percent.

    The bill however, still allows for some loopholes. For instance, if the last property filing a protest is the last to be heard and if all or many of other properties before them have won a lowered property value, the last protesting property owner could see a huge reduction in property value because SB 280 uses the current appraisal records certified by the chief appraiser for reference.

    SB 281 requires that the property owner must submit an affidavit regarding the opinion of the appraised or market value of the property being protested along with evidence to support the opinion.

    Real Values for Texas continues its efforts to help create a fair property tax and appraisal system in Texas. We believe that homeowners should not have to shoulder the burden because commercial property owners aren’t paying their fair share. As the tax consultant industry continues to make profits, our local services are being jeopardized. We need Real Values for Texas.

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