AUSTIN, Texas - When Clayton Johns got his new property tax valuation notice, it was big. The value of his modest rancher in Georgetown has grown from the $30,000 he paid three decades ago. The appraised market value now is listed at $228,072.
The taxable valuation is $160,650, about $20,000 more than what he paid last year. The constant increase has Johns wondering how longer he’ll be able to call his house his home.
"Well yeah that’s what I’m thinking, I was going to be, the taxes they’ll keep on increasing until the person can afford the taxes," he said.
Back in November, Austin was identified by the online financial company SmartAccess as the least affordable city in Texas to buy a home. A repeat performance in 2021 will be no surprise. According to the March sales report from the Austin Board of Realtors, the median sales price of a home in the Austin metro area is $425,000, a 28% increase.
"So it really is a an unusual market for us, I’ve never seen quite it like this," said Marya Crigler, head of the Travis Central Appraisal District, which mailed out almost 400,000 appraisal notices last week.
Crigler said people should not panic over the notices as the district is expecting a large number of people to file a protest. The deadline in Travis County is May 17 and May 15 for Williamson County residents like Florence Cunningham, who said she was going to challenge even though she isn't sure how to do it.
Homeowners are encouraged to sign up online in order to reduce exposure to COVID-19. Initial challenges do not have to be done in person. "They will get in line, online and we will give them a call," said Crigler.
Those who are not happy with the initial challenge can ask for a hearing before an independent board. Getting an in-person board review could take a few months to schedule.
Valuations sent by appraisal districts are used by local governments to set tax rates. Texas lawmakers placed caps on tax hikes and revenue growth in order to provide homeowners some protection. "As taxing entities start setting budgets, setting tax rates, property owners need to pay attention to that," warned Crigler.
There is a chance someone’s tax bill could remain the same, even though their assessed value has gone up. "As appraised values go up, the no new revenue rate will come down so the taxes should be fairly equal," said Crigler.
Local governments that do go above their state mandated limits will trigger public votes.