Fewer property value protests expected this year
In what should be good news for property owners, Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler told board members of Travis Central Appraisal District February 17th that she is not seeing the big increases in property values that were experienced last year. She said some areas will be up in values and some will be down. The end result is that she is not expecting the record numbers of value protests experienced in recent years.
That would be welcome news for the Travis Appraisal Review Board (ARB) because in December TCAD’s board of directors voted to reduce the number of ARB members to 74 for the 2023 protest cycle. That was a 40 percent reduction from the 124 who were on hand to conduct formal hearings in 2022.
As the Bulldog reported, home values jumped more than 50 percent in 2022. As a result, a record 167,869 protests were filed that year, an increase of some 28,000 from 2021.
Crigler said staff appraisers are currently finishing field work and she anticipates that annual Notices of Appraised Values (NOAV) will go out on April 15th. Property owners and their agents have until May 15th to file a protest of appraised values. As the NOAV form states, “The governing body of each taxing unit decides whether taxes on the property will increase and the appraisal district only determines the property value.”
To assist homeowners in understanding their rights and TCAD’s procedures, Crigler said she will host two upcoming webinars. The next will be offered March 15th starting at 11:30am on Appraisal Information for New Homeowners. The last webinar will be held in late April or early May on how to protest property values and get in line for informal hearings with staff appraisers.
Legislation could shake things up
Chief Appraiser Crigler presented a big-picture summary of key bills that have been introduced in the 88th session of the Texas Legislature that began January 10th and runs through May 29th. (Many of those bills are listed on pages 204-250 of the board meeting materials.)
She said, “Property taxes are a major focus of the governor and lieutenant governor.” Most the bills filed deal with appraisal limitations for homesteads. “I’m tracking 45 bills on homestead exemptions” as well as several dealing with property value studies.
She said an overall goal of proposed legislation is to “inject more accountability.” To that end, there are bills that would require chief appraisers to be elected, rather than hired by the appraisal district board, and bills that would require that members of the board of directors be elected.
Three bills introduced by Representative Will Metcalf of Conroe, would require:
HB 808—Election of the chief appraiser to serve a two-year term. To be eligible an individual must be a resident of the county for at least four years before taking office.
In enacted, this would cause a major turnabout in appraisal districts, given that chief appraisers are generally deeply experienced and thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of the work that goes into setting property values, steering the process for conducting valuation protests, and complying with myriad applicable laws.
Crigler is among the most experienced chief appraisers, having gone to work for TCAD in 1990 soon after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin at a starting pay of $6 an hour. Her current annual pay is $235,000. The board was to discuss her performance and compensation in executive session February 17th but afterwards took no action.
HB 809—Election of four appraisal district board members from the county commissioners precincts and one director elected at-large to serve two-year terms. The county tax-assessor collector would serve as a nonvoting director, as is currently the case.
HB 810—Election of five members of the appraisal review board, four from commissioners precincts and one at-large, for terms of two years.
HB 1294, introduced by Representative Sergio Muñoz Jr. of Mission, would require one director be elected from each of he four commissioners precincts in the county, with a fifth member being the county’s tax assessor-collector or a director elected at-large. Terms would be for two years.
It should be noted that although these bills have been introduced none have been assigned to committees for hearings. In fact, the deadline for the unrestricted filing of bills other than local bills, emergency appropriations and emergency matters submitted by the governor is not until March 10th.
New Taxpayer Liaison Officer
Travis County property owners will have a new person to contact when they need more information or want to complain about how their property values are assigned or how their protests are handled.
The TCAD board appointed Betty Thompson as the new Taxpayer Liaison Officer, a part-time position. Although Thompson was appointed by the board and her salary is set by the board, she will operate independently of the board, the chief appraiser, and the Appraisal Review Board.
She succeeds Martin Wilbanks in the post he held for five years. The job has been handled by an annual contract, for which in 2022 his salary was raised from $20,000 a year to $30,000, or $2,500 a month. TCAD’s budget called for that amount to continue but Thompson has not yet signed a contract and the amount could be adjusted by the board in its next meeting, Communications Director Cynthia Martinez said in an email.
While new to this position, Thompson is a seasoned veteran of the appraisal process. She served on the ARB, including some four years as its chair, ending in December 2019. That was a particularly tumultuous year for the ARB because the chief appraiser did not allow property owners or their agents to meet face to face with staff appraisers to informally protest valuations. Instead, protests had to be e-filed on the TCAD website and settlement offers, if any, were conveyed to owners or their agents electronically.
As the Bulldog reported, the end result was to greatly increase the number of formal ARB protest hearings, a situation made even more difficult by having to conduct the hearings in a new facility that was still being remodeled and lacked sufficient parking for the hordes of people protesting their valuations.
You will be able to contact Thompson via email at [email protected] or by phone at 512-834-9317 extension 582.
Discussion and possible action on directives and expectations for the newly appointed TLO will be placed on a future agenda.
TCAD board refreshed
The TCAD board holds elections for its officers in the first meeting of each calendar year and in its February 17th meeting it voted to reelect all three of its officers.
James Valadez will continue serving as board chair, Theresa Bastian will stay on as vice chair, and Nicole Conley will remain secretary-treasurer.
Valadez, who was appointed to the board by Travis County is 2016, was first elected chair in January 2020, so this will be his fourth year to preside over meetings. Bastian was appointed to the board in 2018 by Austin Independent School District and served as secretary-treasurer before being elected vice chair. Conley was appointed by the City of Austin in 2021.
The board also got a new member as Osezua Ehiyamen, PhD, who was attending his first meeting. He was jointly appointed by the City of Austin and Austin Independent School District, where he serves as a community representative on the district’s Advisory Council. He succeeds Felipe Ulloa in this appointment.
His LinkedIn page states that since July 2018 Ehiyamen has been a research scholar in a seasonal position with the University of Texas at Austin and earned his doctorate from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria.
Trust indicators: Ken Martin has been covering local government and politics in the Austin area since 1981 and investigating and reporting on Travis Central Appraisal District since 2011. See more about Ken on the About page. Email [email protected].
HB 808, relating to the selection of the chief appraiser of an appraisal district (8 pages)
HB 809, relating to the selection of the board of directors of an appraisal district (11 pages)
HB 810, relating to the selection and administration of an appraisal review board (14 pages)
HB 1294, relating to the selection of the board of directors of an appraisal district (12 pages)
Notice of Appraised Value — Real Property, Form 50-778 (1 page)
TCAD Board of Directors meeting materials and agenda for February 17, 2023 (250 pages)
Related Bulldog coverage:
Travis Appraisal Review Board members pared, December 22, 2022
Property value protests set new records, June 9, 2022
Appraised home values jump more than 50 percent, April 19, 2022