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Appraisal board lets June 4 decisions stand

Thursday, June 13, 2019 by Jo Clifton

The Travis Appraisal Review Board voted Wednesday to confirm property appraisal decisions that their individual panels made on June 4, in spite of an attempt by Board Chair Betty Thompson to have all of those decisions nullified and new hearings scheduled.

Changes to procedures this year – particularly the elimination of in-person informal discussions between appraisal review board agents and representatives of property owners – have resulted in the need to schedule formal hearings for more than 100,000 protesting taxpayers.

Information about Wednesday’s decision came from an appraisal review board press release and reports from attorneys representing companies that specialize in representing homeowners at such hearings. Attorney Bill Aleshire represents Texas Protax and attorney Lorri Michel represents Five Stone Tax Advisers. Aleshire told the Austin Monitor that he had spoken with the attorney for the appraisal review board and she confirmed that the board voted to approve all the appraisal review panel decisions made on June 4. Michel also said it was her understanding that all of the decisions made by appraisal panels would stand.

One of the arguments that cropped up during the June hearings was about whether appraisers could present evidence that had not been made available to companies representing homeowners prior to the hearings. In the past, the appraisal district has sent out reams of paper to anyone requesting such information. However, that did not happen this year.

As a former Travis County judge and former county tax assessor-collector, Aleshire knows his way around tax appraisal, tax collection and how the county spends its money. Aleshire said he believes that simply making the evidence available is not sufficient if it has been requested. He said his client was using the Travis Central Appraisal District data portal and did not have that problem. However Five Stone Tax Advisers failed to receive a considerable amount of information and those agents argued that the information not provided to them should not be used in the hearings. Some panels agreed with that, while others did not. That was one of the reasons Thompson attempted to reschedule all the hearings.

In the press release sent out Wednesday, Thompson was quoted as saying rescheduling protests “will allow time for the district to provide the requested evidence packets.” She also said that “going forward without district evidence in thousands of cases could have had a tangible impact on tax revenues,” which would impact funding for various government services.

Aleshire said Thompson’s interpretation of the law was completely wrong. He was especially concerned that other tax appraisers might have similar mistaken beliefs that would lead them to issue higher appraisals. He said even if ARB cut every appraisal in half, “the effective tax rate would have the effect of putting it back to the same amount of revenue it was the year before.” So raising or lowering appraisals has no effect on the amount of revenue the county or other taxing entities could raise, he said.

Michel said her client was very pleased with Wednesday’s decision. However, she noted that TCAD has already gone through the procedure to delay the date for certifying the tax rolls. Normally, that date is July 20, and it has now been moved to Aug. 30. She said, “I think it’s very questionable they will meet that. Something’s got to give. They can’t have 140,000 protest hearings unless they go through November.”

Thompson could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

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