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."