Property tax cuts go into effect

December 19, 2023
By Gary Borders
[Source: Wilson County News

A total of $18 billion in property tax cuts were approved by more than 80 percent of voters in the November general election and should be reflected in property tax bills that are due by Jan. 31. The cuts come in the form of increased home exemptions, lower school district rates, and limiting the amounts property appraisals can rise.

Many taxing districts sent out bills before the election that factored in the decrease, anticipating voter approval. For example, in Gregg County in Northeast Texas, the tax bill noted on the back sheet that the lower amount was contingent on voter approval of the proposed amendments. If the amendments had not passed, taxpayers would be billed for the difference.

According to the state comptroller’s office, a typical homestead valued at $350,000 will see a tax savings of about $1,000. Prior to the approval of the tax cuts, Texas ranked sixth highest in the nation in property tax rates, partly because the state does not have a state income tax.

Paxton impeachment cost taxpayers $4.3 million

The Dallas Morning News reported last week that the taxpayer cost of impeaching Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was more than $4.3 million. More than two dozen lawyers worked to prosecute Paxton leading up to and during his two-week trial in the Senate. That chamber acquitted him of all 20 charges after the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton, who is under indictment for securities fraud and was accused of abuse of office.

Lawyers billed more than 7,800 hours related to Paxton’s impeachment, The News reported after seeking copies of all invoices and related documents. Co-counsel Dick DeGuerin defended the amount of work done by attorneys.

“Everything we did was justified, and I won’t retreat from that statement ever,” DeGuerin said. “We presented strong evidence that Paxton just surrendered the power of his office in a corrupt way. It’s just that his financial supporters threatened retaliation against the Republicans that would have voted for conviction.”
Paxton has vowed to campaign in the Republican primary against House members who voted for his impeachment, especially House Speaker Dade Phelan.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Paxton said in a statement released by his campaign. “Whether it’s the House costs, Senate costs, or the overall impeachment session costs, many millions more were incurred on Dade Phelan’s sham and needless impeachment.”

Phelan said Paxton’s refusal to testify before the House on a proposed $3.3 million settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit prompted the investigation that led to the impeachment.

“The investigation, impeachment, and trial of Ken Paxton shed a clear, unflinching light on who Paxton is and the lengths to which he will go to stay in power,” Phelan said in a statement.

Texas members of Congress face sparse election opposition

Texas has 38 seats in the U.S. House, and 35 incumbents are seeking re-election, the Texas Standard reported. Of that number, 16 do not have a primary challenger, while five will face no opposition in the general election as well.

Of the remaining three seats — all in North Texas — two members are retiring, while U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, opted to run against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz next November.

“It is not at all uncommon for incumbents to pretty much coast to re-election, even if they are challenged in the primary or the general election. Incumbents have an enormous advantage in name I.D. and ability to fundraise, connections and networks within the district,” Todd Gillman of The News said.

Board signs off on school library book rules

The State Board of Education (SBOE) approved guidelines for Texas school libraries to use in implementing policies to ban the possession or purchase of books considered “sexually explicit.” The guidelines follow passage of a bill in the last regular session requiring book vendors to supply ratings for titles that contain sexual content. The law is being challenged in court by a coalition of book vendors and associations.

“It was a work of deep value and importance to bring the library standards to fruition. In Texas, parents have been identifying this issue to schools without the necessary support of law,” said SBOE member Audrey Young, R-Trinity.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission must also adopt the standards. Each of the state’s 1,000-plus school districts must approve a policy that explains how school libraries acquire books and other materials.

Judge upholds ban of TikTok on state-issued devices

An Austin federal judge last week upheld the state’s ban of TikTok on government issued devices such as phones, laptops or tablets, reported. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman upheld the policy that was challenged by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which claimed the ban was unconstitutional.

“Texas’s TikTok ban is limiting the use of an app on state-provided devices and networks, which is not a blanket prohibition,” Pitman wrote. The ban followed concerns that the Chinese company that owns TikTok — a social media platform — could provide sensitive data to the Chinese government.

TikTok spent about $1.5 billion on an initiative called Project Texas to address national security concerns. The Biden administration has called for the company to sell TikTok or face a national ban. A bill passed by Congress bans its use on federal government devices.

More about property tax appraisal protests and the arbitration process

This episode of The Press Room begins with Michael Berlanga (CPA and Real Estate Broker) explaining the arbitration process as an option after the ARB.

The Press Room is produced by the Wilson County News' WCN TV. In this episode topics from our July 27, 2022 edition of the Wilson County News are explored in more detail.

It’s late, but some property owners still can file for arbitration

July 27, 2022
By Kristen K. Weaver

Wilson County News

Thought the property tax protest process was over? Wait, there’s more.
The window for most property owners to file protests begins in April-May when they receive their appraised value for properties from the appraisal district.

Property owners’ first step in the appraised value determination begins with protests. Property owners must fill out the form included in the appraised value notice to exercise their right to appear for an Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearing. The deadline for this is May 15.

After the ARB hearing the property owner receives the results by certified mail. This is where property owners can take the next step: binding arbitration. Upon receipt of the ARB hearing results, the property owner has 60 days to file a request for binding arbitration.

Binding Arbitration?

The Texas legislature created the binding arbitration option in 2005 to provide an additional opportunity for remedy in the protest process. It is an alternative to appealing an ARB order to district court.

Steps and information about filing for binding arbitration are included with the ARB’s notice to the property owner.

In addition to completing the request for binding arbitration, a deposit is required. For example, for a residence homestead appraised at $500,000 or less, a deposit (cashier’s check or money order payable to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts) for $450 is due with the request for binding arbitration. If the property owner gets the appraised value reduced, the Comptroller refunds all but $50 of the deposit.
The form explains, “The deposit minus the Comptroller’s fee will be refunded to the property owner if the arbitrator determines that the value is nearer to the property owner’s opinion of value stated in the request for binding arbitration than the value as determined by the ARB.”

Submit a request for Binding Arbitration

The “Request for Binding Arbitration” form available from the Texas Comptroller’s office is used “… to file a request for binding arbitration with an appraisal district concerning a dispute of an appraisal review board (ARB) order of determination. As an alternative to filing an appeal to district court, a property owner is entitled to appeal through binding arbitration an ARB order that only determines a protest concerning the appraised or market value of property if:

(1) the property qualifies as the owner’s residence homestead under Tax Code Section 11.13, or the appraised or market value of the property as determined by the appraisal review board order of determination is $5 million or less; and

(2) the protest was filed under Tax Code Section 41.41(a)(1) (appraised or market value) or Tax Code Section 41.41(a)(2) (unequal appraisal).” When to file, what to file

The form continues with instructions on when to file, and what to file. “A property owner or agent must file the following with the appraisal district not later than the 60th day after the date the property owner receives notice of the final ARB order:

(1) a completed request for binding arbitration using this form;

(2 ) a deposit in the required amount … by cashier’s check or money order payable to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (a deposit is required for each request for arbitration);

(3) a copy of the ARB order determining protest for the property for which binding arbitration is requested;

(4) Form 50-791 if an agent is filing on behalf of a property owner.”

More resources
•Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website, comptroller. •Facebook group “Wilson County Taxpayers Association” •Wilson County Taxpayer’s Association website, •Wilson County Appraisal District, 830-393-3065,

Reform property taxes — then eliminate them

May 24, 2022
By Anne Englert
[source: Wilson County News]

We tell their stories:
Whether it be the middle-aged woman who inherited her grandmother’s home, the home she has always lived in; a young couple wanting to start a family but wondering how long they can pay the property taxes before they are forced to move; the family who takes out a loan to meet their property tax; the long-term residents in a rapidly-changing neighborhood who face displacement; the resident on a fixed-income foregoing repairs and sometimes necessities to pay even moderately rising property taxes — all of these people are real.

We know these people. They are our neighbors. They are us.

High property taxes displace families out of communities, severing support groups and destabilizing neighborhoods.

We are tired of Band-Aid solutions that are mostly for political sound bites instead of real and lasting reform. We’re tired of attending workshops on how to protest our property taxes instead of workshops on how to change the system. We are tired of the anxiety that hits us around springtime when the tax bill comes with a number dropped from the sky. It is not a simple 10-percent increase. For many it is a 120- to 300-percent increase. For some homeowners, the property tax is the financial burden in their lives. It is a real blow to young families, the persons on fixed incomes, the persons who have lived in their homes for decades, and they want to stay until their last dying breath.

As for fighting our property taxes: No one should have to spend 15 to 20 hours to take on the government to plead their case for their tax bill to be lowered a few thousand dollars, year after year. No one should fear the property tax process, but many do. They fear the process because they don’t have the resources to fight back.

Until property taxes are eliminated, we implore our elected officials at all levels: school boards, county, city, and the state, to create change that is meaningful for homeowners right now.
Elected officials have proven that if they want to do something, they can. They have the power and the tools to lower the tax rate and give the maximum amount of protection to the homeowner.

They should:
Run a more efficient government. It is time to stop waste. Governments are to be good stewards of other people’s money and run efficiently. Fair and efficient government must do the right thing so homeowners and renters can live in their communities affordably and not be taxed out of their home.

Cut the tax rate in half right now.

Double or triple the homestead exemptions right now. (The $5,000 exemption is roughly only $30, equal to three trips to the local coffee shop, one month’s prescription, a half-tank of gas, or just one bag of dog food).

•Freeze the tax burden on the valuations at the year the purchase was made. (Whether the home was purchased in the 1960s or last week, taxes should be set for that home until the house is sold again.) If someone buys a $150,000 home, they pay taxes at that rate until they sell it. If someone buys a million-dollar home, then they know they are signing up to pay approximately $33,000 each year in property taxes until they sell.

Replace property tax with a strong consumer tax.
Taxing residents out of their homes is an ethical, not just economic, issue.

We cannot continue living in fear that we will not be able to afford our property taxes, that our continued life in our homes and communities depends upon our ability to pay the government. Join forces for property tax relief, reform, and ultimately, elimination.

Anne Englert has lived in San Antonio for 25 years, and is a board member of the Dellview Area Neighborhood.

Homestead exemption goes up from $25K to $40K

May 17, 2022
By Nannette Kilbey-Smith
Wilson County News

Texas homeowners may see some relief from higher property appraisals.
The homestead exemption has increased from $25,000 to $40,000, following voter approval May 7 of an amendment to the Texas Constitution, raising the homestead exemption.

Although the measure only passed this month, its effect is retroactive and the exemption actually became effective Jan. 1, 2022. The exemption applies to the 2022 tax year, across the entire state of Texas. Tax bills in October will reflect the new homestead amount.

According to information from the Wilson County Appraisal District, a buyer may file for a homestead exemption immediately after closing, even if the seller did not have a homestead exemption on the property for the current tax year.

Another amendment, also approved by voters May 7, benefits individuals with an over 65 or disabled exemption on their homestead; they will receive a reduction on school district property taxes. In the first year, they’ll see a $110 reduction, and $125 reduction in the second year; the reduction will continue to grow each year, according to Sen. Bettencourt of Houston, who authored the measures.

Although property owners may experience some relief from increased tax bills due to increasing property values, this may not be true for many Texans.

“Sadly no one will experience any significant property tax relief because of these two amendments,” said Tim Hardin, with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “The best anyone could hope for is for your property taxes to stay the same, and that will not be the case for most people.”

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility states that tying homestead exemptions to static dollar amounts, instead of using a percentage, means that in high-inflation environments, such as at present, constant adjustments to the exemption amount are necessary.


Wilson County tax protests net drop in appraised values

August 17, 2021
By Nannette Kilbey-Smith
Wilson County News

Due to the number of protests filed by property owners in Wilson County, the Wilson County Appraisal District has been granted an extension by the state; instead of certifying . tax rolls for county taxing entities by July 25, the appraisal district now has until Sept. 1.

The Texas Comptroller Property Tax Assistance Division granted the extension.

This is because the appraisal district still had 5.68 percent of property-tax protests outstanding. To meet its July deadlines, that needed to be 5 percent or less.

Taxing entities — such as school districts, the county, cities, and other governing bodies — received “certified estimates” July
25, in lieu of certified totals.

Total values

“The appraisal review board approved the appraisal records on Wednesday, Aug. 11,” said Chief Appraiser Jennifer Coldewey. “The entities have been provided the certified totals.”
Although some taxing entities found little difference between the certified estimates and certified totals, Wilson County Emergency Services District 1 — which provides fire coverage in northeastern Wilson County — found the certified total was $100 million less than the estimate provided in late July, down from the appraisal district’s estimate of $1.818 billion total property value in its coverage area, to $1.713 billion. This prompted the ESD 1 board to hold an emergency meeting Aug. 15 to revise its proposed tax rate (see related story, page 6A).

District 1 Fire & Rescue Chief Chris Thompson said this was a success for property owners, but the huge difference in property values presented a challenge for the ESD 1 board in finalizing its budget and calculating a tax rate.

The total net taxable property value for Wilson County, based on the certified totals, is $4.97 billion.

As of Aug. 13, there were still 1,594 outstanding protests. A total of 7,644 property owners filed to protest their proposed property valuations received in the spring. Hearings before the appraisal review boards (ARB) will continue through Sept. 16, according to Coldewey.

Moving forward

“Now that WCAD has processed most of the protests, there is time to reflect and evaluate changes and policies that may help in future years,” Coldewey said. Suggestions from staff, taxpayers, and agents “hopefully will help avoid misinformation and improve the overall cycle,” she added.

These include:

•Utilizing the appraisal district website,, “to provide owners with accurate information and updates”

•Creating print handouts, available in the office, for those who don’t own or use computers

•Posting areas where appraisers are performing field work; “We hope this will help address the community’s concerns with identifying when and where the appraisers are out in the field,” Coldewey said. Appraisers will return to the field once ARB hearings are complete.

Updates also may appear in ads in the newspaper, depending on available funds, the chief appraiser said.

“Most importantly, owners can come in any time of year, call, or email, and ask questions about their account(s),” Coldewey explained. “We’ve heard from quite a few owners who thought they could only come in during protest season to go over what structures are on their account or ask questions about the property tax process.

“Taxpayers are welcome to contact us any time during the year with questions, concerns, or suggestions,” she concluded.

Wilson County property owners file 7,644 tax protests

July 13, 2021
By Nannette Kilbey-Smith
Wilson County News

Property-tax appraisal protests continue in Wilson County, as the July 20 deadline approaches for the Wilson County Appraisal District to present certified tax rolls to the county’s taxing entities.
As the deadline approaches, Wilson County realtor Chris Jacobs continues to gather information to sue the appraisal district over the “wildly inaccurate” assessments thousands of property owners are protesting. Many taxpayers — some on fixed incomes — could face crippling tax bills if their assessed values stand.

As of July 12, more than 1,000 appraisal review board (ARB) hearings had yet to take place. The appraisal district has received a whopping total of 7,644 protests filed this year, including 182 that followed mineral notices being sent to property owners; the deadline to file those was June 18, according to Beka Lerich, director of operations for the Wilson County Appraisal District.
Property owners can discuss their appraised values with an appraiser; they can choose to settle their protest informally, or have a hearing with the ARB. There are still 2,188 protests that have yet to be scheduled for ARB hearings, Lerich said.

Here’s where things stood as of Monday:
•Protests filed — 7,644
•Settled informally — 1,916
•ARB hearings held — 2,519
•Scheduled for ARB — 1,021 (total hearings scheduled July 12-20)
•ARB hearings not scheduled yet — 2,188.

Hearings are scheduled through July 20, Lerich said. “Hearings for the remaining 2,188 accounts under protest will resume being scheduled in August.”

Property owners may visit the appraisal district office on Railroad Street in Floresville during business hours with their evidence and discuss their property informally one-on-one with an appraiser. Appointments are not required and face coverings are optional.
“As far as evidence to bring in, pictures, pictures, pictures!” Lerich encouraged.

Those who filed protests online can upload their evidence to their online protest for review.

Those who have questions or want to check the status of their protests can contact the appraisal district:
•Call 830-393-3065
•Email, if unable to call during business hours.

Appraisal lawsuit?

La Vernia-area realtor Chris Jacobs told the Wilson County News he continues to look into a lawsuit against the Wilson County Appraisal District regarding county property appraisals.

“I’ve never seen such wildly inaccurate assessments,” Jacobs said. “I have met with licensed appraisers and they have no clue how these numbers are justified. … You can’t compare Stockdale rural properties to residential lots. You can’t compare Pullman Road land to Cibolo Ridge lots.”

Jacobs has two attorneys looking into a potential lawsuit, and is consulting with another attorney who specializes in pursuing government entities. He has filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation against appraiser Ronnie Rebecek.

Military veteran Jacobs has been assisting county property owners with their protests, providing comparable values and other support.

“We have had wildly successful ARB hearings,” Jacobs said. “Several realtors and taxpayers have seen 30-percent to 50-percent reductions in valuations.

“This cements to me that this was done poorly.”