On Wednesday skyrocketing property taxes sparked a heated exchange at city hall. In a special work session, the City Council asked the Lubbock Central Appraisal District to explain two straight years of shocking property value increases and it wasn't long before both sides had it out over this very sensitive issue.
Last year, Lubbock property values increased by an average of 9% according to the appraisal district. And again this year, they increased by another 9%. Some estimate those percentages are even higher. And that, has some citizens outraged, and city council probing for answers.
Wednesday's meeting between City Council and the Lubbock Central Appraisal District may have started as a civil discussion. "When someone walks into our office, we get that person with an appraiser as soon as possible," says Dave Kimbrough with the LCAD.
But the discussion quickly turned into a firestorm of attacks. "You guys are being driven by the state government in Austin to drive up our values in order to fund the school districts," says City Councilman Gary Boren.
"This is a scheme to keep local schools funded. You keep jacking the appraisals up, year, after year, after year, after year. And the citizens of Lubbock, Texas are fed up," says Councilman Tom Martin.
At issue here: Lubbock's questionable, and by many estimates, colossal property value increases. What's in question is the accuracy of those appraisals. Of the 120,000 properties appraised this year in Lubbock County, the LCAD says about 12,000 of those appraisals will be wrong.
Councilman Victor Hernandez says that's a troubling statistic. "The entity doing these, is shifting the burden of higher taxes to the property owners. That's the problem I have with this system."
The LCAD mass appraises your property based on a small sample of properties in your neighborhood. That's what many are upset about. Already, thousands are challenging their appraisals. Last year, 50% of people who challenged won.
But the LCAD argues it can't be done any more accurately than it's being done today.
Council member Boren called for an investigation into the actions of the LCAD. He wants council to have access to the latest audit of the LCAD.
In the end, little was resolved. Frustrated council members say they will now propose cutting the tax rate to offset increases in appraisals. They also plan to take Councilman Boren's proposed 'truth in taxation' resolution to state legislators. It calls for keeping taxes steady even if property values increase.