GALVESTON

If you are a homeowner in Galveston County and recently received a letter about your home’s value increasing, you are not alone.

The Galveston County Central Appraisal District this year sent out 112,000 notices to property owners. Of those notices, around 79,000 people were notified that their appraisals increased by more than $1,000, said Galveston County Chief Appraiser Tommy Watson.

“The market is good in Galveston County,” said Watson. “If it wasn’t good, the values would be going down.”

But for individual homeowners in Galveston County, a strong housing market also means higher tax bills.

Property values for existing homes increased across the board, according to numbers released by the Central Appraisal District based on increases in each of the county’s independent school districts. The district began sending out property tax appraisals on April 15.

The highest increase for existing homes was in the High Island Independent School District where home values increased by 32 percent, Watson said.

The smallest per-home increases were in Friendswood where assessed values increased by an average of 8 percent, Watson said.

Some people who own houses closer to the Gulf of Mexico might see a higher increase than they’ve experienced in the past because the appraisal districts did full assessments of property values of the High Island and Galveston school districts, rather than simply using sales data, Watson said.

The assessments have led to some sticker shock for some homeowners on Bolivar peninsula, like Denise Lange who owns a home with her husband on Crystal Beach.

Lange’s assessed property values for a 1,700-square-foot, wood-frame house on the north side of Highway 87 increased to $540,000 from $423,000, she said.

“It’s ludicrous,” Lange said. It’s the biggest single-year value increase she’s seen in the six years she’s owned the home. “I think because we live in Crystal Beach, they’re taxing us at a higher rate because we’re a quote-unquote resort.”

Lange has already contacted an attorney to help her challenge the appraisal, she said.

That’s something many people do.

Last year, the appraisal district saw about 26,000 challenges to assessments, Watson said.

If she doesn’t succeed in decreasing her assessment, Lange is not sure she’ll be able to live in Crystal Beach much longer. Lange, who doesn’t have a mortgage, said the new appraisal will see her pay about $6,300 in taxes on the property.

“They’re pricing us out,” she said. “I can’t keep paying this.”

Watson called the increases typical. The appraisal district’s goal is to match the market values of homes in the county, he said.

“We follow the market demand,” Watson said. “We look at what properties are selling for, we get information from tax entities from all over the place, and study those to find out what the values are doing and try to arrive at the value that all the properties are, depending on where they’re at.”

Home appraisals are going up as Texas legislators have again promised to address rising property taxes by the end of their biannual legislative session.

However, the legislature’s efforts are largely focused on capping how much a taxing entity — like a city or school district — can increase their tax rates in a given year. A different bill that would put limits on the amount appraised values can increase in a single year has yet to move out of the committee stage.

Regardless of how the legislature acts, local homeowners will be dealing with the fallout of their new appraisals for months to come. The appraisal district staff, meanwhile, will deal with the surge of property value protests between now and August, Watson said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(14) comments

Ray Taft

You can and should protest your property Tax. Here’s a link with information on protesting your tax increase from the county.

http://www.galvestoncountytx.gov/to/PropertyTaxInformation/2019%20Protest%20Handbook.Online%20Version.pdf

Gary Scoggin

You can say that again.

Ray Taft

You can and should protest your property Tax. Here’s a link with information on protesting your tax increase from the county.

http://www.galvestoncountytx.gov/to/PropertyTaxInformation/2019%20Protest%20Handbook.Online%20Version.pdf

Ray Taft

Looks like my post didn’t load correctly. Tried twice. Maybe the third time is s charm?

You can and should protest your property Tax. Here’s a link with information on protesting your tax increase from the county.

http://www.galvestoncountytx.gov/to/PropertyTaxInformation/2019%20Protest%20Handbook.Online%20Version.pdf

Jack Cross

There is no property tax cut being discussed at the state now or when those jokers, Abbott, Patrick, Bettencourt and Middleton ran on property tax cute. They were purposely misleading voters. Voters don't realize that there are two tax system. The Cities, county,college, mud district is one. Nothing proposed will cut taxes. The other system is schools and this is about 50 percent of your tax bill. The state sets the amount per student. Both the state and local taxpayers pay this amount. The state already has caps on school districts operations. They must tax at 1.06 per $100 valuation and can't set the tax rate over 1.17. 400 school districts are already at this cap. When appraisals increase the state takes these values and cuts the amount the state provides to the school district, thus shifting this amount to local property owners. What the state is calling a tax cut is really a tax shift. The proposal is to allow the school district to keep a little more of their own property values, thus allowing the school trustees to cut the tax rate. However, the state uses your appraisal increase in the state budget, if they allow the school district to use some of this it will leave a hole in the state budget (about $5 billion) to plug this hole is where the proposed sales tax increase comes into play, thus a tax shift not a tax cut. A sales tax will hit seniors and the disabled the hardest because their property taxas are frozen, it will also hit the poor the hardest because they pay the least property taxes and more sales taxes. Washington is not the only place the swamp exists. Taxpayers need transparency when those legislators run year after year on property taxes. The problem is in Austin.

Gary Scoggin

Amen, Jack!

Miceal O'Laochdha

"Watson called the increases typical." He is certainly being honest about that. The relentless upward march of appraisals every year is how our "officials" get ever more of our money to squander without saying the taboo words: "We are increasing taxes" Some people are addicted to drugs; some to booze. "Officials" whether elected or appointed, are addicted to other people's money and need more every year to get that high.

Jack Cross

As to the state- The last time I checked, you can't cut taxes by raising taxes. Unless the state takes a different approach, that is what is on the table now. As to the CAD, they are an extension of state government, governed by the Texas Comptroller to make sure property values are appraised at market value. The state benefits from high appraisals. The state depends heavily on local property values, that is why the property division of the comptrollers office pushes to keep appraisals at maximum values. As long as voters concentrate on local governments and ignore the fact that our state legislators use property tax as a campaign issue, there will never be any reform. Examine what the state has done, voters are giving them a pass, School districts are suffering because of this state leadership, education has its problems and people are leaving school districts all across the state. This in turn hurts cities and in some cases ,business move out as the middle class flees.

Ron Binkley

My assessment on my 1,300 square foot house went from $281,490 to $478,760. For those of you that don't have a calculator handy, that's an increase of $197,270 for a house on a dirt road without sewers. Something is not right!! I've been using Texas Pro Tax for years and they are great. https://texasprotax.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5J_mBRDVARIsAGqGLZAsuf-mXsm3CiUT8OYaczYB1Li0qXVxQwPaqjByoKdXWuWnhJoaDXMaAt3QEALw_wcB

Steve Fouga

Our experience is that the County is amenable to a well-reasoned argument. Their appraisal process, while not one-size-fits-all, is, of necessity, superficial. Sometimes this benefits the homeowner, sometimes penalizes. If you are unhappy with your appraisal, and can provide details that you think will lower your rate, by all means provide it!

The County's website has a lot of good info on property taxes, and how to protest them.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Steve, congratulations on your good luck protesting. I protest every year since buying my current (modest) home, and they are indeed amenable to a well-reasoned argument. That is how I have been able to hold down the increase in valuation of my home to a trifling 150% between 2013 and 2018. Their proposed valuations during that time would have made it an 165% increase.

Jack Cross

Just for information, I served on the ARB for 6 years, hearing thousands of protest. The CAD uses mass appraisals, basically that is based on sales of similar property adjusted to make it look like your property. The system is not perfect but the appraisers do a good job following the procedures set up by the state. If you request documents ( the evidence that the CAD uses to determine your value) the appraiser is required to use that evidence. If you are not satisfied, you are entitled to ask the appraiser that you would like him/her to use other properties to compare with yours. The reason that works for you some times, is because the computer picks the properties used to compare, using factors such as sq foot, age ect. There could be other comparables more favorable to you. The CAD is an extension of state government, The State Comptroller governs every aspect of the appraisal process, they write the laws ,they train the appraisers and the ARB, they audits the CADs, they run their own appraisal through property sales samples and they tell the chief appraiser to jack up the appraisals if they are 5 percent below the state findings. Taxpayers are justified in being upset about steep increases, but don't put all the blame on the CAD, the state has their foot on the CAD and it is the state that benefits every time your appraisal increases regardless what any taxing body sets the tax rate at.

James Lippert

In San Leon, not only are CAD property values up, but the water bills are UP, San Leon MUD taxes are high and if the San Leon MUD Bond Debt election passes the taxes are going up higher yet...

Wayne Holt

Downtown, we've seen appraisals go up 30% across the board in our condo building. To the woman who complained about her 1700 sq. ft Crystal Beach home with a $6,300 tax bill: that same square footage in our building would run you right at $9,000 a year in taxes if you are under 65 and it isn't your primary residence. Heady, indeed.

One thing to note for those over 65 or disabled: in Texas, those who qualify never have to worry about being pushed out of their home because they cannot pay their property taxes. Since the late 1970s, there has been legislation on the books that require ALL taxing entities to defer property taxes until the home no longer is the primary residence or the home is sold. It currently accrues taxes and interest at 5% per annum that must be paid 181 days after the home is no longer the primary residence. While this does not avoid paying the taxes (it must be paid out of the estate if the owner and/or spouse are no longer surviving), no senior or disabled Texan ever need worry they will be forced out of their home because they can't pay their tax. Even if a tax lien and foreclosure action has begun due to tax arrears, the deferral will stop that cold and preserve the home.

Every county by law must make the simple one-page application available. For Galveston County, it may be viewed and downloaded at http://www.galvestoncountytx.gov/to/PropertyTaxInformation/Tax%20Deferral.pdf

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