Texas lawmaker: Bill would ‘even the playing field’ for homeowners who protest values

Every year, Chandler Crouch hears the same story.

Texans are worried about rising property values that have led to large increases in their tax bills.

And many wonder if they, sooner or later, will be taxed out of their homes.

“They are struggling to find an answer,” said Crouch, a Fort Worth Realtor who helps thousands of people each year with their protests for free. “They are depleted, sad, depressed.

“I get phone calls at least once a week, if not more, that people are going to have to sell their house if taxes go up any more. Some already have. That’s not American. It’s not cool and it’s not the way it should be.”

In 2017, Texans paid $59.4 billion in property taxes, up from $40.3 billion in 2010 and $22.5 billion in 2000, Texas Comptroller records show.

Crouch and state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, are among those who have been trying to figure out how to best help Texas property owners.

Krause has filed House Bill 1333, the Appraisal District Reform Act, to try to make appraisals and protests more transparent.

His plan calls for a better notification process about exemptions, provides homeowners with more resources (such as a list of those who help with property value protests for free) and creates what he calls a “fairer appraisal process” by letting the cosmetic nature of homes be used in appraisals.

“We want to even the playing field when people go into the tax protest process,” Krause said. “The burden should be on the government to show why they need to take more of your money.

“These are common-sense fixes. I think it fits in really well with everything we are doing to help with property taxes.”

Gov. Greg Abbott designated property tax reform an “emergency” item to let lawmakers get to work quickly. He and others have touted the Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2019, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2. It would limit property tax revenue growth to 2.5 percent — or trigger an election.

State lawmakers have not decided how to make up for the loss of funding the proposal would bring. Democrats and some local leaders called the cap arbitrary, saying it won’t bring true property tax relief.

Appraisal notices sent April 1

New appraisal notices will be sent out around April 1 and the deadline to protest values will be May 15 for most, said Jeff Law, the chief tax appraiser in Tarrant County.

Law urges home and business owners to file protests online, through TAD.org.

Crouch said he believes that property owners should always protest their rising home values.

He began helping property owners with protests in 2017, handling about 3,500 cases. That year, he saw values shrink by about $40 million.

Last year, he helped about 7,100 property owners and saw values drop by more than $60 million.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.