Austin will challenge commercial property appraisals

Austin City Council members voted May 28 to challenge Travis County commercial property appraisals.

A staff report said commercial properties were undervalued by 41 percent. Should the challenge prove successful, those appraisals could be changed—thus resulting in more money for the city of Austin to budget.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo led the push to file the challenge. She and other council members expressed the desire to use the extra revenue to provide savings and tax breaks to homeowners and renters in Austin.

However, leaders from nearby cities voiced their opposition to Austin filing the challenge because doing so would prevent any city government within Travis County's boundaries from setting is property tax rate before the next fiscal year begins. City budgets would have to operate on estimated revenue, said Ed Van Eenoo, Austin's deputy chief financial officer.

Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell said Austin's challenge could also prevent his city from potentially holding a bond election later this year.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said filing the challenge allows more time to explore the city's options because the filing deadline is June 1, but it could also be possible the city withdraws its challenge.

"This is but one tool we have, we need to bring to bear all the tools we have," Adler said. "No one tool is going to be a magic bullet but collectively, hopefully, we can do something that will impact affordability in our city."

Payments on appraisals are due Jan. 31; however, if Austin is successful in its challenge the due date will be pushed to March 1, Eenoo said.

Tovo said state legislators could help many Texas cities by making changes to state law to improve how appraisals are conducted and determined. Such a change does not seem likely to occur during this year's legislative session.

The council voted unanimously on the challenge, with District 2 Council Member Delia Garza and District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo off the dais.


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