Bexar County Appraisal District (BCAD) appraisals for private property rose about 7% from last year, and Bexar County residents who were shocked by their property appraisals are running out of time to protest the 2016 values.
The last day to postmark a protest against the BCAD value is Tuesday, May 31, but ahead of the deadline, elected officials including State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26), State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123), Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) held a town hall workshop at Fox Tech High School to inform taxpayers of the appraisal process and their right to protest.
“I’ll be filing (my protest) online today when I get home after I learn some of this material. I don’t know enough right now, so hopefully I gain some insight,” said Oscar Rosalez, a self-employed military veteran, before the workshop started. “Houses aren’t selling for what (BCAD) appraises them for, so they’re taxing me for something that I’m not going to be able to get.”
Menéndez explained to the crowd of more than 100 that the meeting was not meant to be partisan or about speeches. Instead, the aim of the workshop was to provide taxpayers with information to make informed decisions about their property appraisals.
“The is a meeting about tools, tools to actually help you,” he said. “Hopefully you’re going to get information you can use.”
Former mayoral candidate and State Rep. Mike Villarreal led the workshop, his sixth annual property taxes workshop, and took questions from the group. He summarized his goals for the gathering to the Rivard Report before it began.
“Number one is to make sure (people) don’t miss the deadline. They need to notify BCAD that they are going to be challenging (the appraisal),” he said. “Number two is that they need to walk around the neighborhood and identify similar homes that have been assessed lower than their home, and the best way to do that is to use the BCAD website to pull down information on homes that are like theirs in their neighborhood, and to do this every year.”
While appraisal hikes for properties classified as homesteads can legally rise more than 10% from one year to the next, tax payments are capped at 10%. That homestead tax cap, Villarreal told attendees, means that for a house that was valued at $100,000 in 2015 and is now valued at $120,000 in 2016, the taxpayer can only be taxed on $110,000 of the 2016 value.
However, the taxpayer will have to protest each year until that appraisal value is met, otherwise the tax rate will continue to be 10%.
The average taxable value for a single-family Bexar County house this year is $188,000, Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita said on Friday during a phone interview. This is up from $176,000 in 2015.
BCAD sent out more than 530,000 notices this year, which are sent for appraisals that saw a jump of $1,000 or more from the previous year.
“There are differences across the city, but the vast majority of property appraisals increased,” Amezquita said.
Villarreal, however, doesn’t think that these numbers should deter people from protesting their appraisals.
“The data I have from 2013, and it’s been pretty stable year-to-year, says that 70% of those homeowners (who protested) have seen a decrease in their assessed value,” Villarreal said. “That’s a really good probability.”
For taxpayers who received appraisal notices, that about half of those are eligible for online appeals, Amezquita said. Those who are not eligible for online appeals can mail in or bring in their protest notices to the BCAD office.
For frustrated residents who could not pinpoint reasons for marked increases in their property appraisals, Villarreal suggested that they consider BCAD’s difficulty in assessing the thousands of homes that have to be appraised.
“BCAD does an estimation of your home. They have to, at a very high level, collect data, analyze it, and then put a value on your home,” he said. “But you live in that home, and you know more details on that property than they do. So, in a way, this process really relies on you to step forward and bring more information and prospective on your home and your neighborhood, and what’s really happening in your neighborhood.”
Homeowners can protest using the “Market Value” argument, the “Equal and Uniform” argument, or both, but property owners must check both boxes on the protest notice to argue both options, Villarreal said.
The Market Value argument relies on past sales information for similar homes to demonstrate that a house could not theoretically be put on the market for the same value as the appraisal. The Equal and Uniform argument relies on the idea that similar houses on the same street that are of similar sizes and were built around the same time should have similar appraisal values.
“It’s in this process of the homeowner stepping forward and challenging this process created by BCAD, (that they can) get better at finding the true value of the house,” Villarreal said. “The (act) of you taking the time off to go down (there) is going to pay off, in my opinion.”
To learn more about your property appraisal, visit bcad.org.
Top image: Sate Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) (left) and State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) (right) speak to property tax workshop attendees. Photo by Sarah Talaat.