Politics & Government

Tarrant County property owners face dueling deadlines for filing protests

FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

With values soaring, property notices mailed out this month by the Tarrant Appraisal District contained some pretty stunning figures.

But at least one number is misleading — and some property owners say it is flat wrong.

The notices say, in bold type: “Your protest deadline is May 2.” But state law says property owners have until midnight May 31 to file a protest with TAD’s Appraisal Review Board.

It seems that both dates are true, in a bureaucratic kind of way.

TAD’s Chief Appraiser Jeff Law says he stands by the notice that set the May 2 deadline, saying it’s established in the Texas Property Tax Code.

In a mailer sent out this week by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, it notes that “you should file your Notice of Protest … no later than 30 days after the appraisal district mailed the Notice of Appraisal.”

It would be very helpful to us if people who choose to file a protest would do so sooner rather than later.

Jeff Law, TAD’s chief appraiser

TAD sent out its notices on April 1, setting up the May 2 deadline.

But Law acknowledges that those who miss the May 2 date still have until May 31 to file a protest.

In fact, the protest form that is posted on TAD’s website says: “The usual deadline for filing your notice is midnight, May 31.”

‘Sooner rather than later’

Law said the notices emphasize the May 2 date in order to improve the efficiency of the appraisal district. He said it is better for the public and the appraisal district if property owners file a protest as soon as possible, “so we can start the process sooner,” he said.

“It would be very helpful to us if people who choose to file a protest would do so sooner rather than later,” Law said. “People like for us to get their property tax issues resolved sooner and that’s our goal as well.”

Because residential property values are up 14 percent this year, there could be a significant number of protests filed. Last year there were 65,000 protests filed, compared with 71,000 in 2014.

It’s the third consecutive year the confusion has occurred on the notices.

In 2014, Law told the Star-Telegram the date was an “inadvertent printing error.”

Information on how to file a protest with the Tarrant Appraisal District can be found at www.tad.org

One email to the Star-Telegram suggested that this year’s May 2 date was more than an oversight.

“The fact remains that TAD continues to ‘misprint’ the truth about the protest deadline and it demonstrates their perpetual willingness to mislead and deceive the taxpayers of Tarrant County,” the email read.

A series of missteps

TAD has become a target of recent criticism by some public school districts and property owner representatives and tax agents.

Some area school districts say they were shorted millions of dollars in property tax revenue in 2015 because of a computer problem. The Fort Worth school district said it lost $12 million in property tax revenue for the 2015-16 school year’s budget. Eagle Mountain-Saginaw said it was shorted $5 million; Grapevine-Colleyville, up to $8 million.

Appraisal district officials have acknowledged that there were delays in the appraisal process in 2015 but have been adamant that the appraisers are now caught up on the assessments and everything is in place for 2016.

TAD is also the subject of a pending lawsuit by the software licensing vendors it hired to provide it with cost data that is used by appraisers to set values for real property. The software licensing companies filed suit in September against TAD and the Texas Attorney General’s Office, stating objections that the data release would disclose their proprietary interests.

TAD has taken no formal position in the suit and says it will meet its obligations to the public under law. The suit is being heard in a Travis County District Court.

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705, @yberard

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