Appraisal Board considers valuation increases
By LPR Staff
Chief Appraiser Pete Islas was met by anger by several members of the community during Tuesday night”s meeting of the Caldwell County Appraisal District Board of Directors.
Islas” judgment has been called into question after the release of Reappraisal Notices earlier this year. Despite his earlier statement that appraisa
ls raised, on average, 12-15 percent this year, some property owners found their tax appraisals more than doubling for 2006.
“I”m told by the State the way I have to calculate the appraisals,” Islas said. “And we found that a lot of properties were undervalued.”
Islas noted that several properties in the downtown commercial district had not been reevaluated since the early-90s, and said that sales contracts for comparable properties showed a marked increase in property market values.
Some taxpayers, however, were unconvinced.
“You can”t give away a house in Lockhart,” said local resident Sandra Thornell. “You can”t say that the property values are increasing. Just look at the real estate guide and see how many [sales prices] are being reduced and reduced!”
Thornell claimed that high taxes were in part to blame for the fact that, despite high rates of development in the surrounding counties, growth in Caldwell County seems stagnant.
Islas maintains that the “mass appraisal” performed by the Appraisal District this year is in line with state mandates. Further, he stated that certain properties were classified incorrectly in past years, and that this year”s appraisal changes reflect, to a degree, a correction of errors of the past.
“We found some properties that were decreasing in valuation when they shouldn”t have, and others that, when we classified them where they should be, we thought it would bring the value down, and it wound up increasing it,” he said.
Ideally, Islas said, properties should be compared based on a number of factors, including home size, property condition and neighborhood condition and classified accordingly. He suggested that errors or changes in those classifications could affect the appraised value of a property.
In a random sampling of a combination of urban residential properties, commercial properties, ranch properties and personal properties, this reporter found that, while a bulk of properties did increase in valuation, many did not. Some, in fact, decreased, as did much of the listed personal property on the tax rolls. It is those differences that Islas credits for the difference between his cited 12-15 percent increase and the actual increase some property owners saw.
Of note, one residential property increased more than 200 percent in value, while one commercial property saw an increase in valuation upwards of $500,000.
The reappraisal has caused headaches both for the Appraisal District Board of Directors and the Appraisal Review Board.
Beginning on July 5, the Appraisal Review Board will begin meeting to examine the more than 1,600 appeals received this year. The number of appeals has increased from last year”s 902. The deadline to file an appeal was May 31.
According to board president Hye Brown, the only recourse for taxpayers at this point is to approach their Legislators.
“The appraisal business in the State of Texas is broken, and this board can”t fix it,” he said. “I encourage you to contact your Legislators and urge them to do something about it.”
In the meantime, the appraisal district board will be reviewing the county”s reappraisal plan to determine whether there is a more equitable and understandable method to performing reappraisals next year.