Property values cause ire

Jennifer Fry

Staff writer

Lively discussion about recently increased property valuations filled the room Tuesday as the Uvalde County Appraisal District’s directors’ monthly meeting got underway.

Soon after the call to order at 5:19 p.m., the floor was opened for public comment. Two men, William Quiñones and Rodrigo Rodriguez, who own multiple properties in the community complained about recent valuation changes.

William Quiñones presented to the board a detailed assessment of the recent changes. Some of his property values increased by 12.64 percent, which he said should not happen.

“With all these values,” he said, “maybe we should go up in small increments… so everybody’s pocketbook won’t be hit all at once.

“I agree we need to have an increase,” he said, “but maybe half of what they want. And then next year, we can catch up.”

He suggested this would be the best option to prepare the public for increased tax expenses.

UCAD board chairman Blaine Bennett attempted to curtail the issue.

“This board is really designed to oversee the operation of the district,” Bennett said.  He went on to state that a different body, the appraisal review board, is the one who hears complaints.

“I would encourage you to use that process,” he told Quiñones.

UCAD chief appraiser Roberto Valdez agreed.

“This board is as an administration board,” he said. “It really does not have a say-so in valuation.”

At that time, Rodrigo Rodriguez began to speak. He owns five properties on the tax roll.

“I’m here basically for the same reason,” he said. “How did they arrive at the values?”

Valdez replied that his office sets the values for properties.

“Who oversees him?” Rodriguez asked, referring to the chief appraiser. “That’s the reason I’m here… I couldn’t believe the appraisal notices I’ve seen this year. I almost had a heart attack – not far from it.

“People out there are starting a petition,” he added.

Rodriguez stated that an empty lot he owns, which faces an alleyway, jumped from a valuation of $2,400 to $12,000 in one year.

“That’s the question that I have,” he said. “How could it go from $3,000 to $12,000?”

“It’s important for this board to hear from you folks,” Bennett said, before restating the problem UCAD and its representatives have faced in recent years.

For 10 years, Bennett said, the district had not been evaluating property regularly.

“As a result of that inaction, one of our entities, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, has been fined, if you will, almost $1 million each year in terms of what they are getting from the state,” he said. “What the state tells us is that those valuations [from the state] are at least 10 percent off of our valuations.

“It’s important for us as an appraisal district to appraise values at market value,” he concluded.

Bennett also suggested the Rodriguez and Quiñones talk with the entities that set the tax rates. For city of Uvalde property owners that includes the city of Uvalde, county of Uvalde and Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District among others.

Public comments are limited to three minutes per speaker and no more than three speakers on any given side of an issue.

Other Business

UCAD chief appraiser Valdez brought to the board the year-to-date 2017 tax collection report. The district has collected $39,317,782 as of June 7. He believes UCAD is on target to collect the expected $40 million by September.

In June of 2012, the district had collected only $28 million for that tax year. Valdez said that collected revenue has increased by 40 percent in the last five years, which he attributed to value changes or higher tax rates.

“As valuations go up,” Bennett said, “that also means that the city, the county, the school districts – all those folks – get more revenue.”

For the 2018 appraisal program, market value for the county went up by 3 percent. The net taxable value, which is the taxable value of a property after applicable deductions and exemptions are applied, went up by 6.5 percent.

Valdez also informed the board that, per the Texas Property Tax Code, the district published protest procedures in the May 20 and May 27 editions of the Uvalde Leader-News.

He mentioned that district staff recently completed a staff in-service to prepare themselves for eventual protests from the community.

“Customers should get the same information,” he said.

For the second month in a row, there was no delinquent tax report from the district’s delinquent collections attorneys. Valdez said there should be one for the July meeting.

Minutes were approved for the regular meeting from May 15. The financial report as of May 31 was also approved.

Valdez presented a proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year. The most notable increases were in education expenses for staff members and software maintenance.

“If we provide a livable wage and provide education,” Bennett said, “we’ll improve our association.”

The board is expected to convene in closed session at its regular meeting set Aug. 14 to further discuss the new budget. At that time, there will also be a public hearing on the proposed budget changes.

There was no closed session, and the meeting adjourned at approximately 6:14 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled July 17 at 5:15 p.m., 830-278-3335

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