August 4, 2021 314 PM
PRESIDIO COUNTY –– In July, the Appraisal Review Board, or ARB, scheduled 357 appointments to hear from property owners in the county protesting their 2021 valuation rates. According to Chief Appraiser Cynthia Ramirez, the average home value increased around 40 percent this year, a sharp increase made in an effort to get county appraisal rates more in line with the state’s data.
While more owners protested this year than last, Ramirez said that the ARB upheld around 95 percent of the district’s valuations.
In year’s past, the county appraisal district has come under fire from the state for undervaluing homes in the county. This year, Ramirez said she believes the Presidio County Appraisal District will have met its goal of valuing homes within five percent of the state’s independent analysis of home sales and market valuations.
According to reports provided by the appraisal district, there were 28 homes in and around Marfa sold since 2020 in which the new property owners disclosed to the appraisal district what they had paid for the property. In Texas, property owners are not obligated to report to the state or the appraisal districts a home’s selling price, however some new owners voluntarily provide that information.
The reports show that many of the homes were undervalued by the appraisal district based on the purchase price which was, on average, 13 percent more than what the appraisal district had valued them.
At this year’s hearings, property owners –– full-time residents and non-residents alike –– lined up to try and convince the Appraisal Review Board, which is a separate entity from the appraisal district, that their homes were overvalued.
Many owners brought in evidence that their property was in fact in worse condition than it appeared. Others tried to show that comparable homes in the neighborhood were valued for less than theirs.
Richard Petree, a consultant for the appraisal district, explained during one hearing that the district has struggled to ensure that all comparable homes are valued at the same price. “I acknowledge that we still have inequities out there,” he said. “It has been a long, long road to try to get everything equal, uniform and at market value.”
At the hearing, Ramirez’s job was to represent the district and present evidence that supported the increase in each particular valuation. She said she was glad to see that the ARB upheld the district’s valuations.
This year was David Lanman’s fourth time to be on the ARB, with his first stint running from 2014 through 2015. Lanman said that in his earlier years on the board, he felt like his job was to be an advocate for property owners.
Yet this year, he felt as if his role had changed. “I think this time for me, I had to play the tough guy,” he said. In the hearings, Lanman and other members of the board tried to explain to owners why the district was raising valuations.
Beyond failing to meet the state’s standards, there is another price to pay for these undervaluations. As The Big Bend Sentinel previously reported, the Marfa Independent School District suffered in 2019 from undervaluations. As the district’s tax collections are tied to home values, the school district ended up being sent a bill from the state that it had to pay due to these consistent low home valuations.
Despite that, not every protestor left the hearing satisfied with what the ARB and the appraisal district had to say. “There were a few people that left upset, and then we did have other individuals that now understood why we did the increase,” Ramirez said.
Now that the 2021 valuations have been set, it’s time for the county’s taxing entities to set the yearly tax rate. Only then will homeowners learn how much they will be taxed for their properties.