Travis County home appraisals will not change this year; area schools may suffer

Image description
Eanes ISD Superintendent Tom Leonard speaks at a Feb. 19 Travis Central Appraisal District Board meeting. (Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Travis Central Appraisal District has announced it will not appraise residential properties this year after the Austin Board of Realtors sent the district a cease-and-desist order in May prohibiting use of its market data in the appraisal process.
Without access to this market data, TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler said her staff is unable to accurately assess residential property values and so will use last year’s values again this year.

ABoR and other Realtor associations argue that the sales market data they collect is proprietary and copyrighted. Meanwhile, the state mandates appraisal districts assess properties according to their market value.

Texas is one of 12 nondisclosure states in the U.S., which means real estate sales prices and other market data are not public record.

In a statement, Austin ISD Chief of Business and Operations Nicole Conley said the school district is working to determine the possible effect of this change.

“We greatly understand the need for property tax relief,” Conley said. “Though we understand why the Austin Board of Realtors has taken such measures, we also realize this could reduce revenue growth for local school districts. It could also potentially shift more funding burden to the state, and create more instability in public education funding.”

Representatives from Dripping Springs ISD, Eanes ISD, Elgin ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD, Marble Falls ISD, Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD wrote they “were shocked and dismayed by the late notice” provided by TCAD regarding the May cease and desist order” in their joint letter.

The ABoR disputes that the cease-and-desist order will negatively affect school districts.

“TCAD can create statistically sound models for the bulk appraisals of residential property using the rendered data they collect,” ABoR said in its Feb. 13 statement. “It’s unfortunate that TCAD is threatening to stop the reappraisal process at the expense of our schools.”
On Feb. 12, Crigler met with representatives from 17 area school districts and discussed possible negative effects on state funding.

When allocating funding to school districts, the state comptroller’s office conducts a biennial property value study to determine the accuracy of the local appraisal district’s work in determining the total taxable value.
Most local taxing entities—such as cities, counties and community college districts—set their tax rates based on the total taxable value provided by their appraisal district.

If appraisal values do not change, these entities can still set the tax rate at whatever increases revenue by 3.5% year over year, the maximum allowed under a new state law.

But school districts have a different formula for calculating local property tax rates. As a result, the TCAD predicts the order will negatively affect school districts in Travis County.

If the comptroller's office finds a higher taxable value than the local appraisal district it can affect the amount of state funding a school district receives

“In general, if your state value is higher [than the appraisal district’s], your state funding goes down,” said Laurie Mann, a policy adviser in the property tax assistance division.

At a Feb. 19 TCAD board meeting, Crigler said her office submitted an open records request in an attempt to gain access to market data used by the comptroller's office in these studies. She said she received a response saying the office could not share such data because of confidentiality.

Without public records detailing sales prices, appraisers may rely on market data in conjunction with other sources, such as deeds, protest hearings and mailed questionnaires.

“It is very, very difficult to appraise properties at market value without market data,” Crigler said.

Without access to market data, the TCAD said it has only been able to obtain data for 15% of sales made in 2019, compared to 98% of those made in 2018.

"You shouldn't have to beg and plea to get the information that you need to do your job," said Bruce Elfant, Travis County's tax assessor-collector. "This is a horrible situation we're in."
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


Work crews from the the Texas Conservation Corps remove fallen and dead tree debris from Hamilton Greenbelt. The team is under the direction of Lake Travis Fire and Rescue and the City of Lakeway. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Preventing wildfires in west Travis County an ever-present effort

Community activity takes many forms to prevent spread of destructive wildfires.

Clara Kistner, Farmacy master gardener, said the community garden operates without the use of chemical fertilizers.
Spicewood community garden grows its support at Bee Creek United Methodist Church

Through hard work and dedication, a group of volunteers in western Travis County have transformed a plot of scrub and rocky land into a community garden that makes a difference in the lives of area residents in need.

Romeo's Pizza held its Georgetown groundbreaking April 6. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza coming to Georgetown; Vacancy Brewing opens in South Austin and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of a Moderna vaccine vial
Austin Public Health coronavirus vaccine portal opens to all adults April 12

APH will continue outreach efforts to high-priority groups.

Hill Country Galleria will host its annual spring art walk event April 16. (Courtesy Giant Noise Public Relations)
10 things to do in the Lake Travis-Westlake area in April, May

From outdoor art walks to live music, the Lake Travis-Westlake area is bustling with community events this spring.

Austin Public Health holds a vaccination clinic at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Coronavirus updates from Austin, Travis County; governor bans 'vaccine passports' and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.

Rollingwood residents will have the opportunity to provide input on the city's comprehensive plan. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Rollingwood launches community survey focused on city’s first comprehensive plan

In an effort to collect community input, Rollingwood launched a survey focused on the needs and priorities within the community, according to an April 8 news release from the city.

Owners Shae (left) and King (right) Magik moved their shop to the Hill Country Galleria in Novemeber 2020. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austinites run creative fashion house at Magik

Magik offers branding, photography services beyond clothing and accessories.

Harmful blue-green algae found in Highland Lakes

Blue-green algae has been found in three Highland Lakes and 10 locations around Lake Travis.

A resident at EdenHill Communities receives their second dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)
Amid the struggle to get vaccinated, these Austin moms have helped over 3,900 people get appointments

The women volunteer their time searching for hard-to-find time slots that often become available in the middle of the night.

Bee Cave City Hall will serve as the site of a City Council candidate forum April 15. (Community Impact staff)
Candidates for Bee Cave City Council scheduled to attend forum April 15

Attendees asked to submit questions to candidates in advance via email.