WACO, TX — Two things make up our property tax rates: the tax rate, and the assessed value of our home.
Realtor Matthew McLeod says his assessment on an Austin Avenue home he owns went up $100,000 bucks last year, and he argued it back down with the county.
"Then again this year, the taxes on my house had gone up another $120,000, that's $120,000 dollars in one year, on one house. Yes sir," he said.
McLeod knows real estate, so he smelled a rat.
"I expect that the $120,000 escalation is pretty unrealistic and not based in reality," he said.
But appraisers with McLennan County say, that is the reality.
"We try to determine an appropriate market value based on what we see going on in the market," explained Joe Bobbitt with the McLennan County Appraisal District.
McLennan County Appraisers say values in and around Waco jumped big in recent years.
”We really just started seeing it in '17 and '18. That's when we ran our numbers and came up with 12 percent, and we said we gotta go back and check, because that just didn't sound right,” said Bobbitt.
He says the numbers checked out. Meanwhile, McLennan County leaders didn't change much more than they had, because they didn't have to.
At the same time, other changes came into play.
Experts say tax breaks for developers also play into property tax rates. As governments freeze their incomes in so-called TIFF zones, they can often raise tax rates in other areas to make up the difference.
County appraisers say independent numbers backed them up. "Last year, we were showing a 12 percent gain. That was backed up buy Texas A&M's Real Estate Center, which is a 3rd party. We just look at our numbers and make sure it matches. This year, it's only 5 percent," said Bobbitt.
But Realtor McLeod says the reality does not back that up across Waco.
"I could see how that could be a possibility. But you're not seeing it across the board. Absolutely not," he said.
He says transparency, and not anecdotal evidence, will help bolster the county's assessments. But so far, that hasn't happened.
"When the county says my home is worth dramatically more than it actually is, and I cannot sell it for the amount or anywhere close to that, that creates a big problem for many people," said McLeod.
People, he fears, could get priced out of their homes if assessed values keep going up, and tax bills along with them.