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Reporter’s Notebook: Game of homes

Monday, May 6, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Whiner Ranch… Roughly a dozen residents of Steiner Ranch showed up at citizen communication at the April 30 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court to decry potential plans to build a new road through the subdivision. The road, Route F, was planned in response to severe wildfires in 2011, when officials determined that the subdivision was in need of an emergency exit in the event of another disaster. However, the ranch residents testified that what was originally envisioned as an emergency-only road has morphed into a full-access road that will disrupt the calm atmosphere and threaten the sensitive ecosystem. Unfortunately, said one resident, “the crooked leadership of the Steiner Ranch HOA” has endorsed the new road, despite significant opposition from neighbors. Another Steiner Ranch resident told the Monitor that the community has been wracked by “Game of Thrones-like power struggles for HOA leadership.” One county employee said the controversy has earned the community the moniker “Whiner Ranch.”

Realtors say TCAD misused home sales data… The Austin Board of Realtors told its members Friday that the Travis Central Appraisal District had gained access to MLS data, the proprietary information about the prices of homes sold in Austin in 2018. According to the ABoR announcement, TCAD apparently got the data from ABoR’s MLS vendor, CoreLogic. In the statement to its members, ABoR said, “unauthorized access to proprietary MLS data by an appraisal district is unacceptable. We are exploring all options to stop this abuse and ensure TCAD is prevented from misusing” the data. ABoR urged its members to be on the lookout for use of the MLS data in property tax disputes and to notify it of any misuse. The appraisal district does not normally have access to property sale prices. TCAD has experienced a great increase in the number of property owners disputing the appraised value of their properties, and as a result, many hearings were scheduled after taxpayers had to decide whether to pay their taxes based on the value they were contesting last year. On this week’s Council agenda, Council is being asked to authorize TCAD “to purchase and acquire real estate located at 850 E. Anderson Lane … for an amount not to exceed $10 million of district funds to allow the district to expand their existing office facilities to accommodate additional Appraisal Review Board panels.” The agenda states that the city must approve the purchase under a section of the Texas Property Tax Code. Bill Aleshire, an attorney who represents tax protest company ProTax, told the Austin Monitor, “This $10 million expense is not just because the number of protests have grown but because Ms. Crigler (the chief appraiser) is forcing the taxpayers of Travis County to pay for more appraisal review board panels.” He said the increase in panels is “a domino effect of the way Ms. Crigler is handling protests,” by refusing to hold any informal face-to-face discussions, which he said in the past has resulted in settlement of 90 percent of ProTax’s cases.

$794.89… According to the latest Austin Police Department quarterly report, between Jan. 1, 2019, and March 31, 2019, APD officers made zero inquiries into a detainee’s or arrestee’s immigration status. However, during that same time period there was one instance in which APD aided immigration law enforcement. In 2018, officers provided 130 records in response to 61 requests, at a cost of $731.38 to the city.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki, Jo Clifton and Elizabeth Pagano.

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