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Winning lawyers criticize Council TCAD vote

Monday, December 7, 2015 by Jo Clifton

Following last week’s City Council vote committing the city to move forward with a motion for new trial and appeal of its lawsuit (which the city lost last month) against the Travis Central Appraisal District and thousands of commercial and vacant property owners, two attorneys on the winning side criticized the decision. The city contends that TCAD is undervaluing property values for commercial and vacant properties to the detriment of Travis County homeowners. At the same time, because TCAD is valuing residential properties at the correct values, homeowners are forced to pay a disproportionate share of taxes, the city says. Lorri Michel, who represented Junk Yard Dogs LP, which owns the building that houses the property tax appraisal firm Protax, accused Council of “operating in their own parallel universe without any basis in the law. Their action will delay finality to the 2015 taxes and continue to cost the taxpayers money – this utterly groundless lawsuit has already cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars. Regardless of the resolution, the outcome will remain the same – the city has no standing to seek the relief they are asking for in the courts.” Bill Aleshire, another attorney for Junk Yard Dogs, complained that the city had yet to reveal which properties were undervalued. Of course, one reason why the city has failed to do so is that it lost the standing argument and could not move forward with the meat of its case. If the 3rd Court of Appeals were to agree with the city on the standing question, the case could move back to Judge Tim Sulak for a trial on the merits. However, if the appeals court agrees with TCAD and the other defendants that the city did not have standing, the city will not ever be required to release its information. Either way, the resolution of this case is many months down the road.

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