Property Taxes Going Up, Up, Up
by John Meng, Publisher/Editor
Many Jackson County businesses and property owners have expressed shock at the unprecedented increases they are seeing in their property tax bills.
According to Damon Moore, chief appraiser of the Jackson Central Appraisal District, certain areas of the county were hit harder than others.
“There were substantial increases this year,” said Moore.
Moore explained that the increases in valuation, and ultimately the tax amount, was based on the property sales during 2019 and the first part of 2020 before the Appraisal District began its scheduling.
“At the first of the year, the market was blowing and going and people were paying some outrageous prices for property,” said Moore.
“We report on values as of January 1, which has put us between a rock and hard place with what’s going on right now,” said Moore.
He added that property sales have dropped off significantly during the coronavirus outbreak. He feels certain that the market will be affected economically but those lack of sales or the reduced values of the sales that do happen will not affect the property valuations until 2021.
The office of the Jackson Central Appraisal District as well as the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts, of which Moore is a member, sent letters to Governor Greg Abbott requesting relief based on the state’s disaster declaration but the attorney general declined, stating that the current situation did not conform to the statute.
In a letter, dated May 3, 2020, sent to the various taxing entities in Jackson County, Moore wrote:
“All Texas appraisal districts are mandated to appraise as of January 1 and will undergo the same “checks and balances” as in past years. The Property Value Study and MAPS Review are still scheduled to occur. Texas school funding will still be reliant on appraisal districts maintaining market values based on the previous year’s sales of similar properties. Certified appraisal values are required to be sent to the taxing units by July 25 if 95 percent of the taxable value is certified by the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). There is currently nothing in the property tax law that will allow the current pandemic to factor into this year’s property tax appraisal valuation.
“Appraisal districts are still required to appraise property at its January 1 value even though we are in the middle of a pandemic that will affect our economy throughout this year. Let others know we anticipate a high number of property tax appraisal appeals due to the economic decline. While we are all sympathetic to the situation we are facing, our hands are tied regarding this year’s reappraisal.”
As mentioned in the letter, the state’s rules on valuations is a driving factor behind this year’s increase in property taxes.
“That has a big impact on it also,” said Moore. “We have to be at 100 percent of market value as of January 1 of each year. Then the state conducts an audit every year. They compare their sales and appraisals to our appraisals and there is a five percent leniency – from 95 to 105 percent.
“Edna and Ganado were below that threshold. And some of the valuations on residential properties were pretty drastic.”
According to Moore, Jackson County does not an adequate number of homes for sell to accommodate the number of people looking to purchase homes.
“With the short supply of single-family homes in the county, sellers were asking high prices and they were getting it.
“Last year, everybody was buying. Average type homes were selling for a lot more than we had on it. Sometimes we only had 60 percent of the value.”
In February, the Jackson Central Appraisal District received notice from the State of Texas that property values in the school district were not within state requirements and the Appraisal District in turn notified the school districts.
Edna ISD superintendent Robert O’Connor said that Edna is now in Year One of a three-year process. If the property valuations in Edna were not compliant in the state’s five-percent rule by Year Three, the state could penalize the Edna ISD by withholding state funds.
“The amount withheld could be very significant,” said O’Connor.