Area chief appraisers struggle to meet tax calendar deadlines under stay-at-home orders

Image description
Leaders of area appraisal districts are struggling to chart a path forward amid shelter-in-place orders that have upended the property tax calendar.

Property owners typically begin receiving assessed value notices in the mail around this time each year. Already, chief appraisers from some of the region’s largest districts—Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Denton—have announced the delay of those letters until the end of April or middle of May.

The lag in certified value mailouts will trigger a domino effect of calendar delays leading up to when taxing units have to adopt new tax rates in September, said Ken Nolan, chief appraiser at Dallas Central Appraisal District.

“Cities especially and possibly hospital districts are spending so much money. If they can’t get a tax rate and a budget set, they are going to run out of money,” Nolan said.

Once notices are delivered, appraisal districts are bracing for the likelihood of hundreds of people showing up to protest their property values in person, Nolan said.

“You’ve got 253 appraisal districts in the state of Texas that are about to put millions of notices out on the streets statewide, and you do not want people congregating in any one place when that happens,” Nolan said.

State law allows property owners 30 days to protest values once notices are received.

Chief Appraiser Bo Daffin with the Collin Central Appraisal District said he anticipates protest hearings to extend into September, when in the past, the bulk of hearings has concluded in July.

Given the uncertainty around what lies ahead, chief appraisers such as Nolan and Jeffery Law with the Tarrant Appraisal District said they hope the governor’s office will issue a statewide directive on how best to navigate the protest process.

“Guidance from the governor’s office was sought about the 2020 appeal process from several appraisal districts throughout the state,” Law said in an email. “But at this time the governor’s office has not waived or suspended any laws.”

In absence of direction from the state, appraisal districts are fortifying technologies to handle the inevitable increase of protests done via phone or online. Hope McClure, chief appraiser with the Denton Central Appraisal District, said that while the majority of protests are normally done in person, her office is prepared to conduct hearings virtually.

“We have one of the top IT teams in the state, and we are equipped to handle that. It will just definitely be a change,” she said.

The Denton office is still deciding whether members of the appraisal review board will be brought into the office for protest hearings, McClure said.

“Their health and well-being is our top priority, and we don’t want to endanger them in any way,” she said.

For Nolan, the prospect of gathering a three-member review panel for protest hearings seems unlikely given the average age of his board members is between 70 and 75 years old.

“That age group is not going to show up,” he said.

Nolan said he submitted a request with the state to hold single-member hearings but has yet to receive approval. Of the appraisal district’s 110 board members, Nolan expects about half would be willing to show up for protest hearings.

“I’m going to try and keep personal contact to a minimum in the summer, unless we get the all-clear,” he said. “But I don’t see us going back to business as usual until July.”

Appraisals in Texas are based on a property’s value as of Jan. 1. McClure and Nolan both said they expect financial hardship caused by COVID-19 to trigger a fair amount of pushback on value increases from property owners. But when it comes to lowering the dollar amount, they say their hands are tied.

“I know that chief appraisers are wanting to do something different for the taxpayers,” McClure said. “But what we are capable of doing and what we want to do are two different things.”

Appraisal districts must certify their tax rolls with area taxing entities by July 25, according to state law. If districts are unable to meet the deadline, the law allows them to send a certified estimate, which entities can use to set their tax rates, Nolan said.

However, the length of shelter-in-place orders will undoubtedly affect the accuracy of those estimates, he said. State law says taxing units must adopt a tax rate by Sept. 29.

“I can give the estimate under any circumstances. I just don’t know how good it is going to be,” Nolan said.

There have been several ideas floated within the appraisal district community on how to remedy issues caused by these delays. Some have even gone so far as to suggest suspension of appraisals for one year and instead roll values over from 2019.

But Nolan said that is unlikely, given the role property taxes play in the state’s school finance system.

“It hasn’t been getting any traction,” he said.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


The store located at The Patios at the Rail will offer a variety of Texas T-shirts, hats and gear for purchase. (Courtesy Tumbleweed TexStyles)
Tumbleweed TexStyles shop coming soon to Frisco and more DFW news

Read the latest Dallas-Fort Worth business and community news.

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference
Gov. Greg Abbott to allocate $171M from CARES Act to help renters at risk of eviction

Gov. Greg Abbott will allocate more than $171 million in renters assistance from the federal coronavirus relief package to eligible Texans.

Harvest Hall will have seven kitchens in total as well as a bar area. (Courtesy LDWW Group)
Grapevine dining hall to host 6 new restaurants and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Richardson had 26 new coronavirus cases from Sept. 18-24. (Community Impact staff)
Dallas County reports 2,588 new cases over weeklong period

There were 26 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in Richardson residents living in the Dallas County portion of the city between Sept. 18-Sept. 24.

Sisters Monica Scott and Monica Frykholm (center) said their team of dedicated staff helped them weather the coronavirus pandemic. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sister-run business Logotology brings custom embroidery, logos to Richardson

The nearly 15-year-old business offers customized products that range from shirts and jackets to kitchen items.

Frisco confirmed two more mosquito pools had tested positive for West Nile virus. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
West Nile virus found in Frisco and more popular DFW news from the week

Read popular Dallas-Fort Worth news from the past week.

DART board considers more options for bus network redesign

This hybrid option was created after committee members expressed interest in a middle ground among ridership options.

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 27 issued an executive order extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Lawsuit takes aim at start date for early voting as some Texas Republicans challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's order

A group of prominent Texas Republicans has embarked on a legal effort to undo the governor's executive order that extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election.

The Grind Burger Bar Tap Room offers craft burgers and beer. (Courtesy The Grind Burger Bar Tap Room)
Grind Burger Bar to open in McKinney and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The League of Women Voters Richardson is holding an in-person voter registration drive ahead of the Nov. 3 election. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
League of Women Voters Richardson to hold in-person registration event at Coit and Belt Line roads

The event will be held Sept. 26 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Richardson Farmers Market.

Students are dropped off at Weatherford Elementary School on Sept. 9, the first day of in-person learning. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano ISD students, staff settle into new school year

Adjustments made to several key areas of district operations are outlined in this story from Community Impact Newspaper's September edition.

Wok & Grill closed Sept. 9. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Wok & Grill shutters in Richardson

The restaurant posted on Facebook that it had made the sudden decision to close its doors.