Increased property values continue to drive a corresponding four-year increase in appraisal protests from Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village homeowners.
The Denton Central Appraisal District received more than 82,000 protests so far this year, or about 10,000 more than last year, according to George Clerihew, DCAD deputy chief appraiser of appraiser operations.
From 2015-17, appraisal protests in Lewisville rose 83.09 percent. Flower Mound protests have risen 35.71 percent, and Highland Village rose 50 percent during that same time period, according to data from DCAD.
“The last four years we’ve had a steady increase in appraisals each year,” he said. “With the continued strong real estate market, homeowners’ property values have been increasing consecutively— it is tough for homeowners, and we completely understand that.”
Clerihew said DCAD has seen a significant increase in homeowners who submit their protest online.
“Last year we had 23,700 online appeals and this year we are at 29,100, so that’s around a 23 percent increase,” he said. “But that’s a good thing because that’s an easier way to protest—property owners can do that from their home or offices.”
DCAD is responsible for appraising every home in Denton County using a mass-appraisal system, Clerihew said. During the mass-appraisal process, appraisers look at a list of comparable houses that were recently sold in the same neighborhood. The appraiser then compares the comps to the resident’s property.
“We don’t create the market; we measure the market based off what sellers and buyers are paying for the houses,” Clerihew said.
Even though DCAD takes into account individual characteristics of a home when appraising, Clerihew said it is beneficial for homeowners to protest if they feel as if DCAD did not take something specific into consideration.
“The owners know their homes better than anyone, and as a general rule we are not allowed to go inside homes,” he said. “During the protest period, homeowners can come talk to an appraiser and bring pictures that show their homes have certain issues, such as cracks in the wall, drainage issues and things of that nature.”
Flower Mound resident Jeff Dill has been able to reduce his appraised value each time he protested.
“People need to know it’s not hard, and you’re wasting money if you don’t protest if your appraisal has increased,” he said. “I average a 50 percent reduction in appraised value the last four times that I’ve done it.”
Dill said his assessed value for 2018 was $24,000 higher than last year; however, by protesting he was able to reduce the year-over-year increase to $8,000.
For Lewisville resident Gary Moore, protesting is more important than ever as he is approaching 65, meaning he would qualify for the 65 and older exemption, which would freeze his property taxes.
“It’s very important to bring pictures of your home when you are protesting,” he said. “You need to be able to show why your house should be valued less. You also need to have an idea of what your house is valued at.”
Moore presented evidence that he made no major improvements to his home, citing that his carpet is 20 years old, his bathroom has leaks, and his back doors are rotting and rusting.
“In 2015, they wanted to raise it to $143,000 but I got it reduced to $133,000,” he said. “In 2016, they wanted to raise it to $160,000 but I got it reduced to $136,000.”
Moore’s appraisal would rise to $160,000 in 2017, and DCAD has a proposed appraised value of $165,633 for 2018, which he is in the process of protesting.
Clerihew said property protest hearings are scheduled to end July 13.
Many residents and city officials are worried about the rising cost of living resulting from increased home values.
To help with the burden, cities offer homestead exemptions, which remove part of a home’s value from taxation—thereby lowering taxes.
Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village all offer homestead exemptions for 65 and older homeowners as well as for the disabled.
To help residents, Highland Village recently increased its exemption amount.
“In October 2017 we were able to save our residents money,” Highland Village Mayor Charlotte Wilcox said. “We increased the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 for our homeowners over 65 and disabled persons. This is an increase of about $142 annual savings that benefits about 22 percent of our homeowners. And we lowered our ad valorem tax rate as well.”
Some Texas lawmakers have tried to slow rising property tax revenue increases as appraisals continue to climb.
During the 2017 legislative session, Senate Bill 2 was brought to the table. Under the proposal, a special election would be called whenever the local property tax collections increase more than 5 percent year over year.
The changes proposed by the state Senate did not pass during regular session or during a special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott. However, Abbott unveiled a plan in January to limit local government’s property tax revenue growth to 2.5 percent, or half the proposed limit in the failed Senate bill.
State law already allows citizens to petition for a rollback election—which is a referendum on the proposed tax rate—when annual tax collection increases exceed 8 percent.