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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tax appraisal battle continues
Monday, May 20, 2019 by Jo Clifton
Watch for some fireworks today at the Travis Appraisal Review Board meeting. Attorney Bill Aleshire tells the Austin Monitor that he plans to testify, not just as an attorney for ProTax tax advisers, but as an outraged citizen. And the war of words continues via email between tax protest companies and the agency assigned to determine the appraised values of Travis County properties. Lorri Michel, an attorney for Five Stone Tax Advisers, has shared with the Monitor letters between her client and Travis Appraisal Review Board Chair Betty Thompson. In the past, up to 90 percent of protests were resolved in face-to-face informal meetings between an ARB agent and a representative of the property owner. This year, Thompson announced an end to the informal hearings but said property owners could submit their protest information in writing and wait for a response from the agency. It is not clear exactly when the formal hearings will begin. Michel said Thompson will not give a date but they first heard a rumor that the hearings would start on May 20; then on June 10, and most recently, June 3. “Keep in mind, Harris County started their formal hearings on May 3,” Michel said. Five Stone has approximately 18,000 clients, each of whom expects that their tax adviser will represent them in a hearing. But as was the case last year, with a reduced schedule and multiple hearings taking place at one time, it will not be possible for the agents to attend all of those hearings. In an email to Thompson, John P. Krueger of Five Stone wrote, “because Five Stone cannot plan, thousands of Travis County taxpayers are being denied due process under the law. It doesn’t have to be that way. You have the power to protect Travis County taxpayers and ensure that all Travis County’s taxpayers receive due process.” Thompson responded, “First, I am not here to reach an agreement with Five Stone re: scheduling any more than I am making agreements with any other firm. That would constitute special treatment.” She also stated, “The ARB’s mission is not and never has been to protect taxpayers; we are charged with certifying the appraisal rolls for the various taxing entities in Travis County by providing a hearing to property owners who are protesting their property value.” It appears to be only a matter of time before Five Stone, ProTax and other tax advisers file suit against the ARB, leaving thousands of taxpayers to wonder whether they will have an opportunity to protest their appraised values.