DRC_Dave Lieber

Dave Lieber

Yes, I’m disappointed with the property tax bill under consideration that pretends to fix a broken system.

If passed, we’ll have more tax-increase elections. Just what we need in Texas — more elections.

So much more should be done to fix a system that’s unfair, arbitrary and varies from county to county, even though it shouldn’t.

Then I remembered that thousands of bills were introduced into the 2019 Legislature before this week’s deadline. Many are proposals for smart property tax improvements. But most likely, they’ll get scant attention and die a quiet, unnoticed death.

With the help of the Texas Association of Realtors, which compiled a list of property tax bills that were introduced, I’m going to list some of the best ones below. You can see which ones you like.

HB means House Bill; SB means Senate bill. If you want to know more, you can look them up at Texas Legislature Online, https://capitol.texas.gov.

In my next column, I’ll share tips and strategies about how to get in touch with your state lawmakers and suggestions about what to say.

Keep in mind that for most of these bills, unless you can help push them to the forefront though public pressure, this story may be the only publicity they get this year.

Although most of the consumer-oriented bills The Watchdog focuses on come from the House, Senate Bill 2 is the main property tax bill introduced by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. In addition to calling for elections if governments want to raise taxes by more than 2.5 percent in a year, it also seeks some reforms:

  • Creates a property tax advisory board for long-term improvements.
  • Makes sure tax rate information is easily available to the public and requires “real-time” adjustments when governments alter their tax rate.
  • Requires changes to tax protest hearings and calls for the creation of appraisal manuals to standardize the process from county to county.

SB 1428 from Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, gives the public the power to go to district court to force appraisal districts to follow state rules and regulations.

SB 1429 from Hancock extends the deadline for filing for an arbitration hearing (after a tax protest hearing decision) from 45 to 60 days.

SB 1430 from Hancock requires that the phrase “rollback rate” be changed to “voter-approval rate” throughout the state tax code because it’s easier to understand. This is the rate at which a tax-approval election would be required.

HB 185 from Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, creates an advisory committee to study the effects of making the final sales price of all real property public information.

HB 383 from Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, reduces by half the allowed increase in appraised property value, from 10 percent in a year to 5 percent. A similar bill is HB 946 by Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, and also SB 1086 from Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

HB 878 by Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia, and HB 945 by Metcalf not only lower the annual capped increase at 5 percent but also apply it to all real property, not just a primary residence.

HB 384 from Bohac provides an exemption for individuals 80 or older if they have received a property tax exemption for the previous decade.

HB 483 from Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, creates a system in which an appraisal district’s board of directors comprises representatives from each of the four commissioners’ precincts in that county. Currently, they are elected by elected officials in the various taxing districts.

HB 950 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, prohibits an appraisal review board, which hears tax protests, from increasing the appraised value higher than the original value protested by the owner. SB 598 from Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, is similar.

HB 1060 by Rep. Bell would allow certified letters from appraisal districts announcing a scheduled protest hearing, but protesters would have to pay the cost. A free email notice would be acceptable if the protester approves that method of notification.

HB 1313 from Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, prohibits an appraised value that was lowered in the previous year’s tax protest from being increased without “clear and convincing evidence” that the increase is supported by facts.

HB 1333 by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, bans an individual from serving on an appraisal district’s board if the person is an officer or employee of a taxing district that is part of the district.

HB 1444 by Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, changes the tax system so that taxes could be calculated using the average appraised value of the property for a five-year period ending with the current tax year.

HB 1485 by Metcalf would require the chief appraiser to be elected in a November general election every two years. Now the chief appraiser is appointed by the appraisal district’s board of directors. HB 1551 from Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, is similar.

HB 1703 by Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, sets terms limits for appraisal review board members in large counties.

HB 1816 by Rep. Michelle Beckley, D-Carrollton, requires that when comparable values are used, houses that are compared must be similar in location, square footage, property age, condition, access, amenities, views and other factors that affect marketability.

HB 1977 from Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin, requires that before issuing tax abatements to businesses, governments disclose the effects on schools, transportation and public safety.

HB 2008 from Rep. Leo Pacheco, D-San Antonio, sets up a mandatory property tax freeze for disabled people or those over 65 and their surviving spouses.

SB 1007 from Bettencourt allows, for the first time in recent history, the prepayment of taxes through escrow accounts.

To read any of these bills, follow their progress and set up email alerts, go to www.capitol.texas.gov, then to “Legislation” and “Bill Lookup.” Make sure your search is for 86(R) for the 86th Regular Session.

As promised, The Watchdog’s next column will show you ways to communicate with bill sponsors, committee chairs and top state officials.

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