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Appraisal district gets good marks from state review


March 31, 2010 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated March 30, 2010 at 10:31 p.m.

Big Brother has been looking over the Victoria appraisal district's shoulder and local officials are pleased with the results.

The latest review by the Texas State Comptroller's office shows that the appraisal district values for single-family residential property were 99 percent accurate.

That audit also shows that commercial values are 94 percent accurate.

"An outside auditing entity such as the comptroller is, for the most part, saying our appraisals are accurate," said City Council Member Paul Polasek. "They reflect fair market value or, in other words, what you would sell it for."

But Jack Mullins, who has criticized local appraisal values in the past, remains skeptical. He said he's been reading real estate booklets for years, keeping tabs on sales and sales prices.

"I can't remember anytime when I've seen nearly the number of homes that have been advertised with reduced prices," he said. "It has just ballooned."

He also noted that the sellers, buyers and real estate brokers are not required by law to disclose sale prices. That makes it difficult for the Victoria Central Appraisal District to come up with accurate numbers, he said.

Chief Appraiser John Haliburton said the state sampled 221 houses and 33 commercial properties in the Victoria school district. He said the weighted average used by the state puts the appraisal district's average values within the window that will ensure the school district will get all the state funds it is due.

And he said he has no reason to distrust the state's study. "You know, the state doesn't have a dog in the fight."

Polasek, who also serves on the appraisal district board, said it's difficult to try to explain why so many people complain about their appraisals each year when, according to the state, they are accurate.

"That's a hard question," he said. "You almost have to ask people that believe that."

But Polasek said prior to Haliburton being hired five years ago, the state's studies showed Victoria's appraisals were set too low. He said Haliburton has been steadily increasing them to where they should be so the school district gets the money it's due, which could be one reason for the complaints.

County Commissioner Kevin Janak, who has served on the appraisal district board three months, agreed the state study shows Victoria's appraisal numbers are accurate.

But that doesn't mean some values won't increase when the new appraisal notices are mailed in May. "We're still catching up on some that have never been hit."

Janak declined to comment on Haliburton's performance because the commissioner has been on the appraisal district board for such a short time.

"I think that he's trying to be as fair as he can," Janak said. "But it is our right to question the appraisals because we're humans and we make mistakes."

He also said people need to make sure they apply for a homestead exemption when they buy a house because it's not automatically granted to the buyer by the appraisal district.

Janak said people also need to investigate appraisal district values when buying a house because they could be subject to change.

The seller, for instance, may be disabled and the person's taxes could be frozen. That freeze might not necessarily carry over to the buyer, he said.



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