Taxpayers protest appraisal notices - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/24/10

Taxpayers protest appraisal notices

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

By Ann Wyatt Little - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Nearly 62,000 appraisal notices in Lubbock County were mailed between April 13th and May 1st letting you know the proposed market value of your property for 2010. That means hundreds of property owners are now protesting their property tax bill.

It's a reality that property taxes do go up and if you are not happy with the value you have the right to protest. But one man we spoke with believes he didn't get a fair shake. "People understand that like it or not things go up everywhere but 20 percent," asks Karl Edwards who disagrees with the appraisal notice he got for his four rent properties.

To date, Edwards, who works in sales at KCBD NewsChannel 11, is one of roughly 2,500 property owners in Lubbock County who filed protest papers with the Appraisal Review Board. That number is down, but so is the total number of appraisals mailed compared to the 81,000 sent last year.

Members of the panel sign affidavits before protesters saying they have not communicated with anyone about the property that is the subject of the protest. "For your information none of the members of this panel are employed with the appraisal district and we are just tax-payers like yourself and we have been asked to conduct these hearings," said a member of the review board during Edwards' protest which the protest was recorded by the board.

Edwards believes that statement is misleading. Why? Because after his hearing, he says he found out review board members are paid $150 for a full day of work and $75 for half a day. "I think if you were to ask the general public ‘did you think they were volunteers?' I think probably 80 percent would say yes they said they were taxpayers just like me," says Edwards. "I'm not saying these gentlemen are bad people or anything like that it just seems like this process should be unbiased."

Lubbock County Chief Appraiser Dave Kimbrough says Appraisal Review Board members are not employees of LCAD, but are paid with tax dollars through a separate legal entity. "It's all taxpayer's dollars. It is a quasi-judicial body maybe similar to condemnation hearings. I don't see any conflict and don't see people putting in that kind of time without compensation," adds Kimbrough who says the payments come from public funds because it is a public responsibility.

"I just think it is wrong for them to say we aren't paid by LCAD. Maybe they are contracted out but the system, the government, somewhere still pays them that money," adds Edwards.

Thomas Pauken served as chairman of Governor Rick Perry's Task Force on Appraisal Reform back in 2006. He says the process should be completely neutral. "That's what is missing under the current system. It shouldn't be completely in favor of the owners against the authorities or vice versa. I think when you have appointments made by local taxing entities there is an inherent bias in favor of pushing those values up as high as you can," says Pauken.

"There are a lot of good people on the review board who do their best to try to be independent and there are others who feel they are representing the appraisal district," Pauken adds.

But Kimbrough says the Texas way of appraisals serves as a model for other states. "It is certainly due process. I don't think there is a better example than the review board system then for people to protest the appraisals so long as they stay within the matter at hand which is what is the market value of the property? No, I don't like the level of my taxes," says Kimbrough.

As for Edwards, he says it is cost prohibitive to keep fighting his property taxes. "If I choose to fight it then I run the risk of not only spending that money but losing it anyway."

The Appraisal Review Board members are appointed by the Appraisal District Board and must continue their education on appraisals through the Texas comptroller's office. Pauken hopes appraisal reform in on Austin's agenda when lawmakers meet in January. 

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