Video: Tips on protesting property taxes and a glimpse at what's behind rising valuations

Bexar County Appraisal District officials gave Mahncke Park Neighborhood Association members a rundown on rising property values and a roadmap for protesting their valuations at the May 16 meeting.

Most importantly, protests must be filed by May 31 and can be done online or in person.

Watch the complete video here or scroll below the video for links to jump directly to key points in the presentation and the Q&A with residents.

The meeting began with a presentation by Lynn Bobbitt, Executive Director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy.

Lynn Bobbitt’s discussion of the plans and aspirations for Brackenridge Park start here on the video:
The Bexar Appraisal District presentation begins here:
Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita opened the presentation, reminding residents that 55 percent of our tax bills is the school district, and the formula for that -is controlled by the state of Texas. “I am required by law to appraise property at 100 percent of market value,” Amezquita said.
Commercial property owners are more litigious and contribute to inequities in the system, Amezquita said. “I’ve got $23 billion of litigation now involving commercial property.”
When major commercial properties such as the JW Marriott prevail in suits challenging their appraisal, it impacts homeowners, Amezquita said.
“You automatically have inequity,” he said. “You can’t change enough residential value to make up for one JW Marriott.
He said homeowners also are affected by moves in Austin. “You can find the 10-year history of public school finance and what the state’s share has been. Ten years ago, the state paid 60 percent, and we paid 40 percent. Today it is 55 percent us and 45 percent the state.

Tom Allison, a manager of the Bexar County residential property appraisal division for 10 years, told residents what’s behind their increasing valuations.
“If you received an appraisal notice, it is my fault. What impacts Mahncke Park, impacted River Road and Westport. You are in the urban core that is going through a revitalization phase. We have a lot of different economic activity going on and it resulting rise in appraisals,” he said.
Allison pointed to a five-year rise in the San Antonio housing market:

  • In 2013, the average home sales price was $184,000, the median sales price was $150,000.
  • In 2014, the average home sales price was $193,000, the median sales price was $160,000.
  • In 2015, the average home sales price was $208,000, the median sales price was $170,000.
  • In 2016, the average home sales price was $218,000, the median sales price was $180,000.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, the average home sales price was $220,000, the median sales price was $184,000.

Demand is far outpacing supply, he said. “We’ve reached the point now that a well-positioned house will sell within hours of being put on the market.”
That trend is expected to continue until at least 2020 when it could flatten when incomes can no longer keep up with rising home costs, he said.
Allison said homeowners are encouraged to examine their evaluation letter and use the form on the back to protest if the numbers seem incorrect.
“We are there in interest of getting record right, to make sure the values are correct,” he said. In most cases, appraisals are done across a large area, such as a neighborhood. “I have 38 appraisers to value 500,000 properties,” he said. The Bexar Appraisal district was created in 1979, and the first appraisal was done in 1981, so information may be lacking from before that period.

“Come to our office, and find out what went into the appraisal,” he said. “Get your evidence packet and you can see the information that was guiding our valuation.”
The Bexar Appraisal District has an informal process for property owners to come in and discuss it. “We resolve 80 percent of cases at the informal level,” Allison said.
The next level is the Appraisal Review Board, which weighs  evidence between the homeowner and the appraisers. Binding arbitration is another step, but it costs $450 for most homeowners.
The Q&A starts here in the video:
Q: I  got my appraisal, taxes went up $8,000. When look at particulars, my structure value went down $40,000, yet my land value doubled and what I am paying taxes on went up $32,000.
Allison: We are interested in the total market value. Yes, improvement component and the land component. If you sell the property you are likely not going to sell. On improvement side, we develop a replacement cost, depreciate it … add land, compare to what they are selling for -- selling for 225 250 - land -- is the market adjustment… at a certain point, components need to be redistributed because it is out of balance.
The last time we made a major rebalance of components was 2006-2008, right before the bust. Now in the eighth year of an expanded market and the components were out of balance.
Q: I refinanced my house in November and had an appraisal. In May I get my valuation it is about 30% more than I got in November.
A: Bring that in when you contest your appraisal
Q: Are the protest forms online?
A: (Here is the link to the online portal: Protest schedules are online you can come to our office, request your evidence packet. We now have the option of electronic protest. Go online, protest online. You have a PIN number on your notice, which lets you log into our website and lets us exchange information online. We don’t have a dog in this fight in terms of getting the highest value. need my school districts to look as poor as possible so they get the most state aid.
Q: My vacant lot went from $30,000 to $90,000
A: Problem is we are looking at composite value. That may be one we need to look at… Generally it is 25-30 percent,  land value to total value. Usually we're looking at 75 to 25 split between improvement to land value. Sometimes that doesn’t fit.
Q: Could you take a moment to talk about what’s happening with Lowe’s home centers?
A: (Amezquita’s answer starts here: )
Lowe’s thinks their $110 $120 per square foot stores should be valued at $20 per foot in Bexar County...
The fact of matter is each Lowe’s store ranges 135,000 to 137,000 square feet… Lost in NC They sued me, Harris, Williamson County, Travis County, Lubbock, Dallas, they settled in other counties with numbers much higher than they offered me. Don’t know why they thought Bexar County was a crash dummy… but I know BS when I see it. Local arbitration panel … week at trial with these guys, I spent $300,000 … they brought experts in Michigan and 7 other states who had gotten their values slashed ... You only need one Lowe’s to go down, then every other big box store would go also....I will be encumbering funds from now until the cows come home because even though I prevailed at the non binding arbitration,  (There was a mediated settlement) They are now trying to reinstate equity suit. … Tomorrow morning I am meeting with my attorneys. I also hired Lamont Jefferson’s to co-counsel with us…because he is a very competent trial lawyer and well known in the community...
What happens to the community changes dramatically if this happens…
So now, the rest of the state of Texas and possibly the school finance system in Texas now rests on how well we do at trial next March.
If I lost this trial it would cost San Antonio schools $850 million over the biennium, a two-year period Assuming it wouldn’t stop at Lowe’s would go to apartment complexes and other retail, and office complexes…
Possible impact to the state, the controller informed me … if there was  $8.5 million loss to Bexar for the biennium, there would be $8.5 billion loss to the state of Texas.
It went very well (at arbitration) but I think now we are at a different chapter.