By Erath County Tax Appraiser Jerry Lee
Erath County Appraisal District would like to address special concerns regarding the current economic situation and the property tax law for the 2020 property tax year.
According to the Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division, 2019 Property Value Study, the values in Erath County were at the very low end of the 95% to 105% of market value range that the state requires of appraisal districts to get maximum state funding for ISD’s. The Texas Property Tax Code requires all property tax appraisals to be as of January 1 and the Chief Appraiser has no discretion regarding this directive. As of this writing, with the exception of applicable exemptions, many 2020 property taxable values will increase in Erath County.
The following is an attempt to explain the property tax situation that exists at this time.
The elected officials in Austin have an extremely tough job and are having to make impossible decisions during an unprecedented time. With that said, please do not interpret the following as a critique of their leadership.
A significant number of agencies and state officials have sent letters to the Governor requesting action by his office to facilitate suspension of this year’s January 1 property reappraisals. These requests were due to the turn of events that have devastated our economy post January 2020. Suspension of property reappraisals for 2020 would keep property owner’s values static at the 2019 level, with the exception of newly constructed property. As of January 1st, the real estate market was still very strong throughout this state, including Erath County, and sale prices/values were continuing to increase.
This is a common scenario across the state of Texas. Increasing property values for ad valorem tax purposes at this time could put additional strain on those already suffering financially, as well as cause record protest volumes during a time when we are required to socially distance ourselves and close our Appraisal District offices to the public.
Appraisal Districts cannot unilaterally choose to forego reappraisal activities without legislative action, as our property values are tested by the Comptroller’s Property Value Study. In order for school districts to receive their full share of state funding, Appraisal District’s local property valuations are required to meet the Comptroller’s PVS valuation standards as of January 1st.
Without legislative action to facilitate suspension of these statutory requirements, your Appraisal District will be required to reappraise your property at a value reflecting the market as of January 1st, 2020, and not as of the more recent economic downturn.
I know and understand that this is a very complex issue. Within school funding, our local property values/taxes are inextricably entangled with funding provided by the state. Texas has a very complex school funding mechanism, and it only became more complicated with the recent passage of House Bill 3 (HB3) this past year. School administrators are trying to navigate the challenges of closing their doors, remotely educating kids, providing meals for children and developing a budget amidst the new funding intricacies of recent legislation.
If the state were to take the action to suspend or modify Appraisal District’s 2020 property reappraisal requirements, it would likely increase the state’s share of school funding well past what they originally projected when HB3 was passed. The state is already involuntarily facing this tough reality for the 2021 tax year if these economic conditions continue throughout 2020 and into 2021. At this time we do not have any current sales data to indicate what the change in market values would be because the sales just went dormant when this pandemic hit.
We will be doing everything possible to make Erath County property owner’s right to protest as accessible as possible, to lessen the impact of our property reappraisals. We are delaying sending our 2020 Appraisal Notices until April 29th to give the state legislature additional time to act.
At this time, when value notices arrive, we are asking that if you feel that you need to protest your property value that you do so by filling out a formal protest and either mail it to the appraisal district office or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will need to include a phone number where we can call you when time and resources allow. If nothing changes and we are required to handle protests by phone and email communications only, expect the process to be very slow and extend well into the summer.
The appraisal district office will remain closed to the public until further notice but is fully staffed and able to be of assistance by phone 254-965-5434, email email@example.com, fax 254-965-5633 or by visiting our website at www.erath-cad.com.