Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Property owners have option to protest appraisals
Taxes are a necessary evil. No one likes to pay them, but they fund many of the projects and services that residents need in their day-to-day lives.
Unfortunately for many Victoria County residents, their property taxes are likely to go up this year. In early May, the Victoria Central Appraisal District mailed about 35,000 notices to residents whose property valuations went up by more than $1,000. Once the notices arrived, property owners were shocked to see how much the appraisal increased. The average property value of a Victoria County home in 2013 was $131,685. In 2014, that number increased by almost 8 percent to $141,925. The last day protests can be filed in Victoria County is Friday.
Some of our readers have expressed confusion at how property appraisals are determined. The answer is that it's all outlined in state law. The Texas Property Tax Code, which can be downloaded from the state comptroller's website, sets out the guidelines for appraisals, said John Haliburton, chief appraiser for the Victoria Central Appraisal District. Every year on Jan. 1, properties are appraised, and notices are sent out to anyone whose property value changes more than $1,000.
The district tries to examine 10,000 to 12,000 property parcels onsite every year when appraising, but there are more than 48,000 real property parcels in the county, Haliburton said. When examining a property, appraisers look at the condition and check to see if their records match what is actually on the ground such as the size and features of a structure or any improvements or expansions that have been made. They have tables of values for improvements.
"We try to compare apples to apples," Haliburton said, explaining the district doesn't compare a small, older home with a newly built mansion on the opposite side of town. Appraisals are meant to reflect the market value of a home.
Residents who wish to protest their appraisals have 30 days after the notice was mailed to protest, Haliburton said. Protests must be filed through the appraisal district's office, and protest applications should have been included with the appraisal notices. The district tries to meet with property owners to settle protests informally, but if that is not possible, the owner can go to the appraisal review board, which will listen to both sides before making a ruling. If the owner is still not satisfied, he or she has the option of taking the issue to arbitration or court.
We encourage residents who think their property was unfairly valued to take advantage of the option of protesting the appraisal. The guidelines were spelled out by the state Legislature with the aim to ensure every home was fairly valuated, and the appraisal district is ready to address any concerns, Haliburton said. "We're here to serve the public."
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.