By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
If you are like many of the property owners contacted by the Jimplecute for this news story who have not reviewed their new property tax appraisal notice, you might want to give it a look.
Many residents have discovered increases in their property values of 30 percent or more.
Marion Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Ann Lummus said some residents saw the value of their property for tax purposes double.
Lummus noted property owners have until May 15 to file an official protest, but often a simple conversation will fix the problem.
People who believe their evaluation is wrong “need to come in and talk to us,” Lummus said. “The staff can sometimes adjust the value or explain why the value is at a certain level.”Experienced property owners say they know the drill.
“They will always work with you,” James Goolsby said. “I’ve argued every year for the last 40 years.”
After reviewing his tax notices, Goolsby said he plans to visit MCAD again this year.
“I gave $35,000 for a property that is now on rolls for $170,000,” Goolsby said. “I paid $25,000 for a house that is now valued at $110,000. The house next to this property recently sold for $55,000.”
Goolsby said his increases this year averaged 17 to 23 percent.
Cliff Bode said he noticed an increase in his appraisals.
“Definitely, quite a few went up,” Bode said. “The increase is 30 percent or something like that.”
Bode plans to visit with the appraisers before making further comment.
“They do listen to you,” Bode said.
Not everyone is unhappy.
“Yes, I noticed appraisals going up,” Rodney King, owner of Valley Plains Oilfield Service, said. “Having property in other counties, I don’t really have any complaints about Marion County.”
King said he knew where the appraisal problem was worse.
“Come over here to Harrison County and check it out,” King said. “Marion county is one of the lower areas.”
King also expressed understanding for the increase.
“We need a lot of things in Marion County like infrastructure and improved roads,” King said. “Only way that is going to happen is for taxes to go up a little bit.”
The increased property values and probable tax increase do not fall only on the property owner. Goolsby warned the renter can also feel the bite.
Goolsby owns the Fudge Store on Walnut and rents the building from former resident Tom Haggard.
“When Tom got his appraisal notice, he called me and raised my rent $200 per month,” Goolsby said.
Across the state Texans have noticed the rise in property values. A report in the San Antonio Business Journal predicted double digit boosts from appraisal districts.
“We have a statewide issue that we don’t really have a grasp on,” Patel Rahul Patel of Patel|Gaines, one of Texas’ leading property tax attorneys said. “We have new schools. We have new infrastructure. Rolling back the tax rate really isn’t an option, but this continued increase is not sustainable.”
Patel pointed to the Texas population explosion of almost a half-million people per year and that in 2016, alone, 1,800 businesses moved to Texas from California as reasons local governments need more funds.
Lummus explained at a recent Jefferson ISD board meeting, state auditors push her team to raise property values.
“We are out of compliance,” Lummus said of the audit by the Texas Comptroller’s office finding.
State law permits districts to miss their target values by 5 percent.
MCAD was found to have valued property at about 90 percent on average of what the state believed it should be. A 5 percent increase in property values will bring Marion County into compliance.
Superintendent Rob Barnwell explained failure to adjust values in line with state expectations will cost JISD state funds.
“The state sends us money based on local values,” Barnwell said. “If the state assumes we have a higher value, the state sends us less money.”
“It is difficult to understand,” Lummus admitted.
The appraisal team looks closely at what price similar properties sell.
“Some sell high. Some sell real low. Then you get the median values,” Lummus said.
In addition to “like values” affecting tax values, Lummus noted productivity values were adjusted.
“Productivity values have been real low the last several years,” Lummus said.
A productivity value can result in similar properties having different values as when a surgeon owns a building the same size as a bookstore.
Lummus did note that although the staff attempts to settle valuation disagreements, 50 property owners so far this year have filed a formal protest, a slight increase from past years.
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