Get ready for a gut-punch when you open your latest Notice of Value from the Wharton Appraisal District. Regardless if home improvements were made, taxpayers across the Lone Star State continue to receive skyrocketing property valuations.
How are property
Our state constitution mandates that all property be taxed equally and uniformly, and appraised at no more than its fair market value. In Texas, property is assessed and values are determined by an independent autonomous Central Appraisal District. CADs generally apply the Market Data Comparison Approach for single-family residential properties which compares a home’s characteristics with those of similar homes recently sold.
Unlike most states, Texas does not require sales price information in calculating true fair market value so the CADs numbers are problematic and often debated.
How did we get
a Central Appraisal District?
Virtually all property tax problems stem from poorly funded public education. The Texas Constitution provides for a system of free public schools. Funding for free schools is heavily dependent on property taxes.
In 1973, the Texas Supreme Court ruled many students were not receiving an equitable education as property taxes were not evenly distributed throughout the state. In hopes of saving its traditional finance system, state lawmakers introduced a more professional depoliticized appraisal process where the actual determination of property values would be controlled by strict procedures set forth in the State’s Tax Code and enforced by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
There is to be one CAD operating in every Texas county with a chief appraiser appointed as the chief administrator of that office. The chief appraiser and staff are charged with identifying, listing and appraising all the taxable property within the county and then calculating and certifying the tax roll. The chief appraiser and staff must strictly adhere to the formulas and guidelines set forth in the Tax Code.
If there is a dispute as to value, a citizen’s board of non-elected officials, called the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), settles any disagreements between property owner and the appraisal district. Your appraised home value may not increase more than 10 percent per year. All assessed property must be reassessed at least once every three years. Only state lawmakers can adjust the Tax Code’s procedures and formulas for calculating property value. Local leaders such as mayors and school boards are prohibited from having any legal input related to property assessment and valuations.
What is the customary timetable
for property tax collections?
Jan. 1 marks the beginning of property appraisal. What a property is used for on Jan. 1, market conditions at that time, and who owns the property on that date determine whether the property is taxed, its value, qualifications for exemptions, and who is responsible for paying the tax. Between Jan. 1 and April 30, the appraisal district processes applications for tax exemptions, agricultural and timber appraisals and other tax relief.
Around May 15, the appraisal review board begins hearing protests from property owners who believe their property values are incorrect, or who feel they were improperly denied an exemption or agricultural/timber appraisal. When the ARB finishes its work, the chief appraiser gives each school, city, and county a list of taxable property known as the appraisal roll.
In August or September, the elected officials of each taxing unit adopt tax rates for their operations and debt payments. Tax collection starts in October and November as tax bills go out to taxpayers. Local residents have until Jan. 31 of the following year to pay their taxes.
Theoretically, when property valuations increase ... all governmental tax levies should decrease. The doomsday scenario for homeowners occurs when the state increases property valuations while local governments raise tax levies.
With no foreseeable relief coming from Austin, a Texas homeowner’s only plausible hope for tax relief is praying local schools, cities and hospital districts miraculously find more ways to cut spending, eliminate programs and continue doing more with less. Here at the county, commissioners adopted a balanced 2021 annual operating budget that lowered the current tax levy and cut county spending by $286,442. Wharton County remains 100 percent debt free for an eighth consecutive year.
2020 Tax Rate - $ .45869
2019 Tax Rate - $ .46240
As your county judge, my primary objective continues to be preparing Wharton County for the future while always maintaining our unique small-town way of life.
– Phillip Spenrath is the Wharton County Judge.