That collective gasping you’ve been hearing across North Texas these past few days is coming from homeowners opening their annual property tax appraisals and seeing huge increases that many will struggle to pay.
There’s an old feeling about the way local government does its business — if they don’t get you on the rate, they will get you on the appraisal, and we can’t blame property owners, especially this year, for feeling raw about their tax assessments.
After all, properties were assessed based on their value as of Jan. 1, before the coronavirus devastated the local economy, driving people out of work and into economic uncertainty in ways many have never experienced.
We can debate whether the assessments would be fair in normal times — and there is evidence in areas of Dallas County that they aren’t.
But it’s plain they are unfair across the board now, and something needs to be done.
Here’s the good news. In an interview with us Wednesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he wholly agrees.
“You can tell people Judge Jenkins said everybody file a protest. When the head of the government is telling you to protest the property tax bill you just got in the mail that ought to tell you what the government thinks,” Jenkins said.
People need to file their protests now. The deadline is June 15.
But leaving the burden on property owners is insufficient. So we were pleased that Jenkins is going beyond that.
He said he has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to freeze appraisals in the hopes no one faces a higher value this year than they had last year. According to Jenkins, only Abbott has that power. Abbott has declined to do so for fear that freezing rates at last year’s level could revoke people’s ability to protest and negatively impact those people who got lower valuations this year.
Abbott wrote to Democratic state leaders Tuesday urging them to lower tax rates — which local governments control. (Note: tax rates are how much you pay on every $100 of the assessed value of your property.)
Whatever differences they have, Abbott and Jenkins are on both on record opposing higher taxes for this year. They need to sort out how best to ensure that happens.
Jenkins empathized with people getting sticker shock now, calling increased valuations in the double digits “ridiculous.”
He noted that the county appraisal district has also asked the state for relief, saying that authorities are just as concerned about appraisals that reflect pre-coronavirus valuations.
What’s plain is that taxpayers in major urban counties will be paying up on valuations that no longer reflect reality. That isn’t right, especially not now.
From the governor to the local assessor, everyone needs to work now on behalf of residents and property owners to make this right.