You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Austin Council to file unprecedented commercial appraisal challenge


A year after the Austin City Council decided to gather evidence that would back up a challenge saying commercial properties are appraised below the market value, it’s on the way to finishing what it started.

The council voted 9-0 on Thursday to file a petition challenging Travis County commercial appraisals of more than $30 billion, a process that could prompt the reappraisal of all or some of those properties — and potentially delay the collection of property taxes along the way. (Council members Delia Garza and Sheri Gallo were absent for the vote.)

A council-commissioned study gave weight to the longstanding contention that Texas’ property tax system unfairly shifts the tax burden onto homeowners, finding that commercial properties in 2015 were undervalued by an estimated average of 27 percent, and commercial vacant and underdeveloped land was underappraised by 76 percent.

“I think everyone is seeking additional fairness, and that puts us all on the same page,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

It’s unclear how the council’s petition will move forward.

Council Member Kathie Tovo, the lead champion of the petition, said in an interview that she expects there to be a formal hearing in mid-June at the Travis Appraisal Review Board, which can either order a reappraisal or reject the petition. If the city loses, it could appeal in district court.

Adler said filing the challenge enables the city to share the data used in the study with the appraisal district — a notion the district’s attorney has contested, saying state law allows for other ways to share information — and there are multiple options the council could consider over the coming weeks.

In an interview, Adler said that 15 to 20 lawyers from local taxing entities — as well as lawyer Buck Wood, who first urged elected officials last year to file a challenge — are mapping out the different paths the council could take.

Adler pointed to the Harris County Commissioners Court, which last year withdrew a petition and instead reached a data-sharing agreement with the Harris appraisal district. There could also be a scenario, Adler said, where focus is placed on changing the Travis appraisal district’s practices for 2016 appraisals.

Representatives from the city of Cedar Park said the challenge could throw a wrench into their tax and budget adoption process, as well as their ability to hold a bond election this fall. The cities of Round Rock and Leander, as well as Central Health and Austin Community College, voiced similar worries Tuesday.

“To ask a long-term bond question when your current financial situation is not set, our bond attorney says that that would be irresponsible and possibly not compliant with the law,” Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell told the council.

Another concern: If property tax bills are delayed, those who typically pay their taxes by the end of the year so they can get a deduction on their federal income taxes might be out of luck.

The Travis County Tax Office said it would accept estimated tax payments, and when tax notices are issued, send refunds to those who overpaid and send another bill to those who underpaid. Taxing entities wouldn’t receive tax revenue until after tax bills are sent.

The Travis County Commissioners Court is holding a special meeting Friday to discuss whether to file its own challenge or to direct the county attorney to assist the city with its challenge. The deadline to file a challenge is Monday.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Judge says Houston-area bail system unfair to poor offenders

A judge rebuked Houston-area authorities for imposing a bail system that’s unfair to people arrested for lesser offenses who are detained for long periods because they’re unable to pay for their release. The ruling Friday by Chief U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal was part of a lawsuit from a single mother who was held for two days on a...
One killed in rollover crash in Southeast Austin
One killed in rollover crash in Southeast Austin

SOUTHEAST AUSTIN EMS: 1 dead in rollover crash A man believed to be in his 20s was killed Saturday in a single-vehicle rollover crash in Southeast Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS reported. Medics responded to the crash near the 4400 block of East William Cannon Drive just west of the intersection with South Pleasant Valley Road at 3:52 p.m. The man...
Nonprofit serves up plates of would-be food waste to raise awareness
Nonprofit serves up plates of would-be food waste to raise awareness

As a live band played groovy music, Anna Santucci welcomed shoppers eyeing the spread of food at her booth in the Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market with the same greeting: “Hi, can I make you a plate?” she’d say, as she began filling a plate with greens, fruit salad, beans, guacamole, bread and crackers. The free meals...
Even 20 years on, everyone’s still a wiener at Buda’s dachshund races
Even 20 years on, everyone’s still a wiener at Buda’s dachshund races

“On your mark, get set … go!” As the gates on a grassy field in Buda City Park opened, seven tiny wiener dogs ran as fast as their little legs would take them into the open arms of their owners. This weekend marks the 20th year that the dashing dachshunds are competing against one another for a good cause at the Buda Lions Club Country...
EMS: One person killed in rollover crash in Southeast Austin
EMS: One person killed in rollover crash in Southeast Austin

A man believed to be in his 20s was killed Saturday in a single-vehicle rollover crash in Southeast Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS reported. Medics responded to the crash near the 4400 block of East William Cannon Drive at 3:52 p.m. The man was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Three others were involved in the crash but refused care or...
More Stories