New legislation helps with property taxes
Over the past several weeks, my office has received numerous calls from constituents who have seen their property tax bills increase based on valuations of their properties. The issue of fairness and transparency in the state’s property tax system has been at the center of debate in the Texas Legislature for several sessions.
After the 80th Legislative Session in 2007, the House Interim Select Committee on Property Tax Relief and Appraisal Reform was formed to travel the state and take public testimony on the mounting problem. The committee then issued an interim report on its findings, which later translated into legislation that was filed during the most recent, 81st Legislative Session. The following summarizes some of the key bills that passed:
HB 8 – This bill allows the comptroller to conduct the Property Value Study (PVS) every other year, rather than every year as required by current law. The PVS is used to estimate a school district’s taxable property values and to measure central appraisal districts’ performances. The primary purpose of the study is to help ensure that the state distributes funds for public schools equitably.
Under HB 8, in the year the comptroller is not conducting a PVS, an audit will be conducted to review appraisal district procedures, methodology, governance and how they treat taxpayers. By conducting the study every other year, the comptroller will be able to do a more thorough audit and will make the appraisal process more consistent throughout the state.
HB 3613 - This provides that the land of a residence homestead may not be appraised based on the highest and best use of the property and must be appraised as a residence. This bill was filed in response to residence homesteads being appraised based on what the land would be sold for if it was converted to commercial property. An amendment was added to HB 3613 that allows for 100 percent disabled veterans to be exempt from paying property taxes. The provision regarding the disabled veterans’ exemption goes into effect immediately and affects the 2009 tax year. The provisions related to prohibiting “highest and best use” will become effective on Jan. 1, 2010, so long as HJR 36 is approved by voters in November.
HJR 36 - This constitutional amendment enables the provisions in HB 3613 and gives the state direct authority to enforce uniform appraisal standards and procedures, rather than requiring administrative and judicial enforcement to originate in the county where the tax is imposed. This amendment goes to the voters for approval on Nov. 3.
SB 771 - This clarifies appraisal standards for the use of comparable sales and requires chief appraisers to present substantial evidence for increasing the appraised value of property, the value of which was reduced on appeal in the prior year. The bill also provides expedited arbitration as an additional means to appeal decisions by the appraisal review board and increases qualification requirements to be an arbiter. This bill takes effect on Jan. 1.
The legislative intent of these measures is to increase accuracy and improve standards and practices of property appraisals in Texas. As we move into the next tax year, my office will be working directly with our county appraisal boards to ensure that this intent is properly met. We must continue formulating policy designed to bring much needed tax relief to our property owners.
If you have any questions regarding any legislative issues, please contact either my capitol or my district office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments.
Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, is the District 32 State Representative. Contact him at E2-808, P.O. Box 2910, Austin TX 78768; (512) 463-0672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.