TCAD to ABoR: thanks but no thanks

0
1957

This story was significantly updated at 7:48pm Thursday February 27, 2020, to insert statements by TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler and Bexar CAD Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita. 

TCAD says aggregate data can’t be used to change residential property values

The Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) has offered to provide aggregate sales data by zip code that the Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD) might be able to use to reappraise residential properties in 2020.

TCAD wasted no time in saying that won’t work.

Marya Crigler

Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler said in a written statement, “The offer from the Austin Board of Realtors is disingenuous. It would be illegal for us to change market values without having the data to support those changes.

“Using aggregate data to do across-the-board increases would violate the Texas Property Tax Code, International Association of Assessing Officers Mass Appraisal Standards, and Uniform Standards of Professional Practices. (See citations for each of these in TCAD response to ABoR offer.)

“Travis County property owners deserve better. During a time where property owners are struggling with affordability issues, every dollar matters. We cannot and will not increase property values without the data to support it. We are required to appraise properties at market value and the only way to determine that is by using market data.

“Despite our efforts to collect data from a variety of sources, the limited data we have does not indicate any change in current market values. We remain committed to working with our taxing entities to find a solution to this issue that is legal and fair for Travis County property owners.”

Crigler had previously announced February 12, 2020, that TCAD would not be reappraising residential properties in 2020 because ABoR had cut off access to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales data for individual homes. TCAD was getting the MLS data through a third-party vendor until ABoR issued a cease-and-desist letter last May.

The ABoR media statement said, “Texas is a non-disclosure state. Appraisal districts across Texas have a state mandate to set property values each year. To the best of our knowledge, every other appraisal district is conducting residential valuations this year. This includes nearby counties such as Bexar County, which has been cited as having no access to market data collected or provided by the San Antonio Board of Realtors MLS.”

Bexar appraises without MLS but it’s difficult

Michael Amezquita

After this story was initially published, Michael Amezquita, chief appraiser of the Bexar Appraisal District, provided a statement regarding sales disclosure.

It states in part, “Appraisal districts in Texas have an extraordinarily difficult time obtaining market information with regard to sales prices because Texas is one of only a few states in the nation that not not require mandatory sales disclosure,” he said in a prepared statement.

“We have to turn to finding sales information through sending sals request letters to buyers and sellers, miscellaneous publications, and other various sources. This is a difficult undertaking that monopolizes staff time but is necessary to keep track of market change.

“Through our efforts, we still are able to collect sales prices for only 30 percent to 35 percent of all the deed transactions that occur in Bexar County annually. Obviously, the more information that we could obtain with regard to sales prices, the more accurate our appraisals would be. We do the absolute best we can with what we have.”

Taxation based upon the market value of property is only fair when appraisals accurately reflect the true value of properties on the roll,” the statement says.

“Under the current situation with regard to property tax appraisal, we are able to obtain more information on sales prices of properties in the middle to low end of the scale, thus our appraisals of those properties are consistently more accurate. The properties at the high end of the scale are where we have the hardest time collecting data and therefore, our appraisals are not as accurate as they should (or could) be if there were mandatory sales disclosure. This situation shifts the tax burden to those owners in the middle to low end disproportionately. I think that is inherently unfair.”

“If there were provisions for mandatory sales disclosure, appraisals would be more accurate, the distribution of the tax burden would be more fair, but above all, the justification for appraisal increases would be more transparent to the public.”

ABoR sought to confirm meeting details

Emily Chenevert

Later today, ABoR CEO Emily Chenevert sent a message to Crigler and the TCAD board of directors that indicates she met with Crigler this morning. The message thanked Crigler for acknowledging that she understands the copyright protections and rules that ABoR must abide by regarding MLS data.

“Based on our conversation today, you made it clear that TCAD has indeed modeled 2019 property values. You clearly stated that TCAD has valued residential property, with the authorized sales data available to TCAD, and that this resulted in no change in value year over year.”

Cynthia Martinez

TCAD Communications Officer Cynthia Martinez, responding to a request to comment based on Chenevert’s message, said, “We have a limited amount of data. … We don’t have enough new data for any of our numbers to change. That’s why values are staying the same.”

Chief appraiser Crigler agrees to disagree

At 6:30pm Chief Appraiser Crigler replied to Chenevert’s email and a copy of the reply was provided to The Austin Bulldog, which in part says:

“…for the purpose of clarity, TCAD has not conceded with ABoR’s contention that TCAD’s use or access to such data is a violation of any intellectual property right. Nor does TCAD believe that the data it received from CoreLogic was a violation of any such right. To the contrary, CoreLogic represented to TCAD that it was authorized to sell and deliver the data to TCAD. Absent proof to the contrary, TCAD accepts that representation as accurate. Indeed, neither ABoR or CoreLogic have been willing to share with us the terms of their contractual agreement that would allow us to evaluate such claims.”

“While TCAD understands that ABoR has held out that ABoR cannot share the MLS data with TCAD given ABoR’s claims of proprietariness of the data, ABoR does possess the data necessary to fulfill the statutory requirements imposed by the legislature on TCAD. We appreciate ABoR acknowledging the necessity for TCAD to have access to the market data required to fulfill TCAD’s statutory duties. While we may cordially agree to disagree on the best method to share market data it is our hope that we may move forward cooperatively in seeking solutions that are legal and fair to all concerned.”

School districts still stewing

Tom Leonard

As previously reported by The Austin Bulldog, Eanes ISD Superintendent Tom Leonard, speaking on behalf of eight school districts, informed the TCAD board of directors at its February 19, 2020, meeting that school districts were “shocked and dismayed” by TCAD’s late notice that it would not reappraise residential property in 2020. He said this “will ultimately adversely affect students, teachers, and staff.”

In a telephone interview today, Leonard said, “TCAD has known about this problem since last May.

“Are we going to be stuck with 2019 values forever?” he asked. “Eventually we need a Plan B.”

Leonard said that he believes the ABoR statement that other appraisal districts are able to do without MLS data. “We need to see how they do so.”

Leonard’s concerns are driven by the effects of legislation intended to reduce the effect of increased property values by lowering a school district’s tax rate. “We believe that if property is assessed at the right values then the Eanes ISD tax rate would drop 5 cents.” If residential property values are stagnant at 2019 values, he said, “our tax rate will not drop.”

Links to related material:

ABoR CEO Emily Chenevert’s email message, February 27, 2020 (1 page)

ABoR media statement, February 27, 2020 (1 page)

ABoR frequently asked questions, from its website (2 pages)

Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler’s response to ABoR CEO Emily Chenevert’s email, February 27, 2020 (1 page)

Statement of Bexar Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita regarding sales disclosure (1 page)

TCAD response to ABoR offer, February 27, 2020 (1 page)

Other Bulldog coverage of TCAD:

School districts blast appraisal district, February 19, 2020

Judge undercuts chief appraiser’s authority, February 17, 2019

Appraisal review board and appraisal district sued, January 6, 2020

Appraisal review board and appraisal district sued, January 6, 2020

TCAD board rewards chief appraiser, December 19, 2019

TCAD 2020 to resume face-to-face informal protests, December 11, 2019

By every measure TCAD is having a bad year, December 1, 2019

TCAD board gets earful about impact of barring face-to-face appeals, November 18, 2019

TCAD alone in barring face-to-face informal protests, November 12, 2019

TCAD board member had dual homestead tax exemptions, October 20, 2019

Property value protest hearings harshly criticized, August 29, 2019

TCAD flubs public notice for hearing on Proposed 2020 Budget, August 9, 2019

TCAD loses Catherine Tower lawsuits at cost of nearly $850,000, July 23, 2019

TCAD loses landfill lawsuit at cost of nearly $1 million, July 16, 2019

New offices for Travis Central Appraisal District, July 15, 2019

Deputy chief appraiser abruptly resigns, July 10, 2019

Appraisal Review Board heads off lawsuit, June 12, 2019

New procedures undermine appraisal process, June 6, 2019

Lawsuit Seeks Property Tax Hearings, December 17, 2018

Homestead Exemptions a Tax Loophole,” February 26, 2014

Homestead Exemptions Rife With Abuse, December 20, 2013

Chris Riley Nailed for Back Taxes, August 20, 2014

Appraisal District to End Records Suppression, November 22, 2011

Appraisal Records Hidden from Public View, November 18, 2011

Are Austin’s Property Taxes Fair and Equitable? July 30, 2010

Trust indicators:

Photo of Ken MartinKen 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 on Ken on the About page.

Email [email protected].

An alphabetic list of donors who have contributed to The Austin Bulldog since the organization was formed in 2009 and the cumulative amount each person has given through December 31, 2018, are listed on the Contribute page. Work is underway to update that information through December 31, 2019.