MCLENNAN COUNTY — Even as Texas lawmakers patted themselves on the back for providing property tax relief to homeowners, many in the state wondered how much, if any, they might save.
The answer in mostly urban counties like McLennan? Maybe not that much.
That's because property assessments have become the issue in fast-growing places like Waco, not the tax rate.
Assessments keep going up, so governments don't HAVE to raise taxes. They go up automatically with property values.
The McLennan County Appraisal District says last year's property values jumped 12 percent, which caused realtors to do a double take.
"We definitely have a strong real estate market, so I think it's fair to say values are going up. I'm not sure where 12 percent comes from. I think perhaps they're confusing the choice of some buyers to buy more expensive homes," explained realtor Matthew McLeod.
But folks at the appraisal district say, studies from Texas A&M back up their claim, and that since then, property values have settled down to increases of about 5 percent a year.
If you feel your assessment doesn't reflect the value of your home, you can always appeal the figure. But you'd better be able to prove your case to a review panel.
"Basically our task is to conduct an independent review of those 2019 notices to see if they warrant an adjustment, up or down, based on the evidence we receive from both the district and the taxpayer. At the end of those sessions, we then will rule on the value based upon the evidence, and that's what we do," said Charles Reed, Appeal Board Member.
You have 30 days from the time you receive your appraisal to appeal it, though in some cases you could have more time.
Be prepared to show concrete evidence as to why your property may have been appraised too highly. Have pictures, and paperwork ready to help prove your case, and don't expect to appeal using hardship or emotion.
"The law really doesn't allow us to have sympathy or anything else to take into account personal finances. All we can really look at is the condition the property is in and what it would sell for on January 1," said Joe Bobbitt of the McLennan County Appraisal District.
Because that's Texas law.
Realtors like Matthew McLeod want a more transparent process, and to know exactly how county appraisers arrive at their figures.
The appraisers say some of their best information comes from people who protest their assessment, and the documentation they bring with them.