“Public response has been LOUD to the skyrocketing numbers released by the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District (CAD) this week,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales said in an April 16 Facebook post. “Many of our residents are facing complete economic devastation.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers estimates his own 44-year-old home's value increased by 70% year over year, or about $140,000, he wrote in a blog post.
The appraisal notices show the calculated market value of a property Jan. 1—before the coronavirus pandemic hit the area—according to an April 10 press release from the appraisal district. The property value is used to determine how much a property owner pays in taxes.
Property owners should receive their notices by April 18.
Meyers, Morales, County Judge KP George and state officials said they have taken or will take steps to try to reduce the appraised values, but so far they have been unsuccessful. George noted in an April 17 press release the county Commissioners Court does not oversee the appraisal district; it is a separate entity.
“A wholesale, county-wide rollback to lower property appraised values has been thoroughly investigated to the highest state authority through multiple channels, and it is not currently possible under the current statute,” Morales said.
Efforts to lower appraisal values
Meyers said he reached out to Fort Bend County Chief Appraiser Jordan Wise, urging the district to roll back property values to 2019 levels unless the 2020 value is lower. He also reached out to state Comptroller Glenn Hegar—a resident of Fort Bend County—to look into the issue.
Wise replied that appraised values in 2020 will reflect the market conditions as of Jan. 1, when the real estate market was robust. Appraised values in 2021 will reflect the market conditions from the coronavirus. Hegar came to a similar conclusion.
“We have researched the Property Tax Code to see what relief can be offered to property owners,” Wise wrote in an April 15 letter. “Unfortunately, there are no provisions in the law that allow for reduced values for 2020 based on an event such as the current health crisis.”
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, also asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to examine the tax code, Morales said. But Paxton said a temporary tax exemption would not likely apply under the declared disaster because no physical damage has occurred to property, unlike a hurricane or flooding disaster.
Meyers stated he will propose lowering the county tax rates and encouraged property owners to protest their values. Information on how to protest is available on the CAD website.
Morales said his office will work on a revenue-neutral 2020-21 county budget and is reaching out to local taxing entities—such as school districts and municipalities—to also pursue revenue-neutral budgets.
An online petition has also started, asking the appraisal district to begin a publicly transparent review of property valuations before the final certification of the appraised values July 25.
George's press release stated he will “do everything in my power to alleviate the financial burdens property owners are facing.”
He outlined additional steps he is taking to address the issue, including launching a taxpayer survey, starting an economic recovery task force, and creating a Commissioners Court resolution urging state officials to change laws for emergency relief.