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Stories Added - January 2010
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Lakefront property owners seek forum on values, CAD policy
Polk County Enterprise - January 2010
LIVINGSTON — Property owners with lakefront property saw a 30 percent increase in values in the latest tax notices, as opposed to 10 percent increase for properties without frontage on Lake Livingston. The furor over that value increase has resulted in at least one lawsuit, and a long list of hearings before the local Appraisal Review Board. Several of the affected owners appeared at the December meeting of the Polk Central Appraisal District Board of Directors and ask for a public forum so that taxpayers could get additional information on the reasons behind the changes. A date for that hearing had not been set as of Jan. 2. Those whose lakefront property is not their homestead saw the full amount of that increase on this year’s tax statements. Homesteaders will feel the increase in graduated levels over the next several years. Frank Jamison, a retiree who lives in the Idlewilde subdivision, told board members that the situation has turned into “a lot of angry people who are being hit in the pocketbook and we’re in the dark.”
“There’s an element needed here for your consideration, and that is to review communication to propertyowners,” Jamison continued. “We wouldn’t slaughter a person if we were in the same boat and rowing with them. We would share that. ... There are questions here that we need answers to, and it needs to be in a public forum.” Chief Appraiser Carolyn Allen countered that she had only received two letters about the additional 20 percent value increase in lakefront property. Jamison suggested she recheck with offi ce staff since he had requested a meeting with her and told it would take six months. Other attendees at the December meeting cited similar conversations with appraisal district staff. “We’re in a defl ationary period and we’re seeing hits that we didn’t plan for, so we can make decisions about the future,” Jamison said. Allen responded that results of the district’s latest audit were shared with the public and the results are available for review on the Texas Comptroller’s website.
However, R.J. DeSilva, spokesman for Comptroller’s offi ce, said the audit would not evaluate whether the methodology of raising rates on lakefront property is allowable under state law or not. Rep. John Otto — author of several property appraisal reform bills that took effect this week — also questions whether the 20 percent increase complies with state law. “I’ve had a conversation with the comptroller’s offi ce that I would like the issue looked into,” Otto said. “That’s why the new legislature tion was enacted. Before the comptroller’s office just looked to see if values were within 5 percent what they think they should be. They didn’t care how you got there. Now we care how you got there.” Otto also pointed out that the Polk CAD will undergo another audit by the Comptroller’s office during 2010. Onalaska Realtor Rick Andrews said property tax laws require the chief appraiser to “rope the wind.”
“If you see a house on the rolls for $30,000 and it sells for $50,000, then it looks like you’re doing a bang-up job,” Andrews said. “Fluctuations in price can make a huge percentage difference. Property that sells for more than 100 percent of its assessed value will be low-dollar, run-down houses. “There’s a difference between appraisal and assessment,” Andrews added. “Appraisers go out and sees individual features of the property.” Mass appraisals for taxing purposes cannot consider factors such as landscaping or whether the house has been properly maintained. Another property owner at the December meeting questioned whether other prime real estate was hiked more than the 10 percent countywide increase. When the date and time for the public hearing is set, it will appear in the Polk County Enterprise.