Sometimes fairness comes floating in like a cool breeze on an August morning in Austin.
Thank you, this morning to Bob at the Travis Central Appraisal District for lowering my property taxes by 26%.
I learned a lot from Bob during the hour of my informal hearing. My protest was based on holding the City true to its mission to provide affordable housing — I live in a house built by the Blackshear Neighborhood Development Corporation. Even if you don’t live in a house purchased from a nonprofit affordable housing provider, you might benefit from my experience. At the end of this post, I promise I’ll tell you the technical way that it happened.
At first, Bob and I talked about the fact that the State sets what property taxes can be based upon — he didn’t think there was anything he could do. I felt my hopes fade for just a moment. Then I decided to not let that dissuade me. I appealed to Bob’s true heart of civic duty and invoked the good faith of all the public servants at the city departments who administer the affordable housing programs for the City we want to live in. They want to be true to the mission. So does Bob.
Beside the Homestead Exemption, could the County provide an Affordable Housing Exemption? Not just for the development of it, but for the sustaining of it over time? To keep it as part of the affordable housing available in Austin.
We talked about the commercial real estate companies. As a professional Realtor himself, Bob knows that they don’t have to fully disclose the sales prices of commercial properties, so valuing them accurately is harder. Could they contribute more to Austin? A fairer share if they were assessed and taxed more accurately?
Could City of Austin ask the Endeavors and other large developers to pay more of their share to keep Austin an affordable place to live and to pay for more of the services they benefit from?
The City apparently is also the only one of the Travis Central Appraisal District taxing entities that doesn’t provide a discount on our taxes. At the same time that we ask City Council to hold the developers accountable, we can also ask for a tax discount.
Bob pointed out that there is no State Income Tax. Most people are scared of it. What if it were done in the same way its done in Denmark for example? So everyone would benefit? Would it then be more possible for everyone to live well? Bob knew about their example from his travel with the Navy during the Carter Administration.
I agreed with Bob that I would ask both City Council and the Texas Legislature to make some changes. That’s what Bob actually wants from us. As an employee of the Central Appraisal District, he can’t go there.
So here’s where he could go —
The proposed 2014 tax on my home of $5,170 — whoa! — was based on a property value of more than double what I paid for the house. I paid $127,000 for it in 2005. It was now being appraised at over $303,000. Bob took a closer look and was able to change the market value to a more accurate assessment.
Usually the Appraisal District looks at a mass comparison of housing all around your property. The houses in the comparison could be much larger and built more recently — in other words, apples to pomegranates. Bob did a more accurate comparison of houses in this area that are of more equal square footage to mine and that were sold within ~5 years of when I purchased my home. He found that those houses were actually valued at ~$215,000. This makes a lot more sense. It’s fair.
And thanks, Mark Rogers for the encouragement.
So remember — when you go to your informal hearing at the Travis Central Appraisal District, make sure to ask your representative to do a close comparison to homes in your grid that are close in size to your home and that were sold around the time that yours was. Ask her or him to change the value based on that comparison.
Thanks. Love and peace, Donna