The Bexar County Appraisal District is being sued at a record pace this year. Appraisal districts tell you what your house is worth, its "fair market worth," which essentially tells you how much you owe in taxes. Property owners that feel they deserve to pay less can sue. The amount of property under dispute is worth $10 billion and growing.
The district's valuations end up bringing tax revenue in for schools, roads and local governments. This has county officials worried. Last year a bill passed the Texas House, HB 585, further complicating things -- or strengthening them depending on where you sit on the issue -- by requiring a higher burden of proof by appraisal districts in subsequent years if they lose.
The dispute stems from the Texas Constitution, which says that a property owner should not pay more taxes than other similar properties. Appraisal districts argue that owners of large properties, often commercial, are cherry picking properties from throughout the area that don't compare. The district, short on lawyers, says they are often forced to settle. Property values are forced down making it easier to dispute future valuations, meaning a downward spiral for property taxes and funding for local infrastructure and schools. This is the appraisal district's nightmare scenario. Tax preparers and property tax lawyers argue this is their constitutional right. They don't agree that properties are cherry picked for their purposes. They believe that similar properties should be valued similarly and taxed accordingly.