Cherrywood Hosts Property Tax Forum

On May 12, neighbors concerned with recent property tax hikes met with Marya Crigler and Bruce Elfant at Asbury Servant Church. Ms. Crigler, the Chief Appraiser for the Travis Central Appraisal District, spoke at length about how appraisals are done, exemptions, payment plans, and how to protest, and Mr. Elfant, the Travis County Tax Assessor/Collector, spoke about changes in the ways his office does business and its role in voter registration.

The Travis County Tax Office contacted CNA about hosting a forum as part of a spring outreach effort.  Approximately 35 neighbors from Cherrywood, Mueller, Windsor Park, Blackland, Schieffer, Delwood 2 and Wilshire Wood attended and it was a lively and informative event.

Ms. Crigler shared the following data on home sales in Cherrywood and a handout on how the appraisal process works, and answered many questions from participants.

Count of Sales Median Sale  Average Sale  High Sale  Low Sale
39 $  351,250  $  364,389  $  528,100  $  240,000

Mr. Elfant said “we are trying to change the way we do business so that you get your bill electronically, pay your bill electronically, and get your receipt electronically.” This would save around half a million dollars in the process of collecting property taxes, and many Austinites are already using the online system.

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Attendees submitted the following feedback on the forum:
I was impressed by Ms. Crigler and her clarity.  I didn’t know about how TCAD used building permit info and didn’t have access to MLS’ sales price info.  It was a good intro to tax assessment and I’m really pleased that they took the time to come out, as they seem to be doing for many neighborhoods around town.
– Glynis
What clicked for me was that this affects renters as well as owners. Since rental properties are not protected by homestead exemptions, their property taxes go up very quickly and that’s why rents are so high in the neighborhood.
I was impressed that Ms. Crigler stressed the most significant thing we can do to lower property taxes is participate in the electoral and legislative process. Property taxes are a huge part of the public education budget, which should probably be rethought, and they also pay for lots of other things via bonds. She said (without taking a stand on any individual bond) that voters need to realize they’re going to pay for them through their property taxes.

The most surprising thing was that property appraisals are based on information that is volunteered, and thus may be biased in some way. I also was surprised by the rate at which sales prices seem to be increasing.

My biggest takeaway is that we should expect to say goodbye to the days when a sluggish city government lagged the market in property valuation. For years we counted on that lag to offset tax rates and keep taxes low. Such expectations may explain why so few folks actually vote on bond issues or concern themselves with government. Mr. Elfant may find that he may do the best job driving voters back to the polls through his office’s increased efficiency!

I was surprised that they said they’re seeing tear downs of really high value. Marya explained that that indicates the value of the land is higher than the value of the house, but that’s little consolation to me.
– Claire

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Jennifer Potter-Miller

About Jennifer Potter-Miller

Chair, Friends of Patterson Park, Social Media Chair, Maplewood Elementary School PTA, and Content Editor, Flea newsletter

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