2010-09-14 / Front Page

Property values steady in 2010

By DAVID LOWE
Staff Writer

With residential construction slow because of the weak national economy, neither average appraised property values nor the total tax base in Lampasas County increased much in 2010.

With little change in most property values for area entities — including the Lampasas Independent School District — Lampasas Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Glenda January believes many taxpayers will not see an increase in their 2010 tax bills compared to 2009.

Lampasas County’s 2010 tax base — not including the value of new property — is $1.06 billion, about $15.6 million more than the 2009 tax base. The market value of new structures and new personal property in the county increased by only $8.57 million this year. That growth rate was less than half the rate of increase in the previous year, when the county added $18.68 million in new property market value.

“We had a lot less new improvement value” than in recent years, Ms. January said. “There weren’t as many new structures built, particularly in the form of homes, in 2010.”

Despite slow construction activity, property values generally held steady, and appraised values used for tax purposes were close to real estate market values, Ms. January said.

“[The slow economy] didn’t hurt the sales prices, but it did decrease new [construction],” the chief appraiser said.

The value of an average homestead increased in several Lampasas County entities, according to public notices entities were required to publish. As small taxing entities, the cities of Kempner and Lometa do not have to publish the average homestead value within their jurisdictions, Ms. January said.

Lampasas County is not required to publish its average property value because the county’s 2010- 2011 tax rate will not exceed the effective rate — or the rate needed to generate the same amount of tax revenue in the new budget year as in the budget year that ends Sept. 30. The county’s 2010-2011 total tax rate will be 59.57 cents per $100 valuation, a decrease of about one cent compared to the 2009- 2010 rate.

The taxable value of an average home in the Lampasas school district increased by $7,705 from 2009 to 2010. The one-year increase in taxable value for an average home in the city of Lampasas is $946 and in the Lometa Independent School District is $2,537.

Taxing entities’ average homestead values can be miseleading, Ms. January said, adding that statistics can be skewed by a small number of properties that experience significant increases. Although a number of properties in the western side of the county increased in value, Ms. January said, she added that the value of many properties held relatively steady or increased so slightly that property owners will not receive larger tax bills in 2010 than in 2009.

Tax appraisers use data from real estate sales letters, building and sewer permits, permits issued for remodeling and observations of building exteriors to determine property values for tax purposes, Ms. January said.

“Rarely do we go inside a structure unless we are asked to,” she said, noting that appraisals can be lowered if property owners provide documentation of damage a property has sustained or of other factors that adversely affect a structure.

The year-to-year increase in homestead values for taxing purposes is limited to 10 percent more than the previous year’s capped value, Ms. January said.

A homestead with a capped value of $100,000 in the previous year, for example, cannot have a taxable value higher than $110,000 the next year — even if the home’s real estate market value is $150,000. The tax appraisal value may increase by 10 percent annually until the tax value matches the market value, Ms. January said.

The Lampasas Central Appraisal District, the chief appraiser noted, tries to set overall property values within an average range of 95 percent to 105 percent of real estate market values.

Tax bills for 2010 should be sent by mid-October. Jan. 31, 2011, is the last day to pay 2010 taxes without incurring a penalty or interest.

A 7 percent penalty is assessed for delinquent 2010 bills beginning Feb. 1. The penalty increases two percent on the first day of each subsequent month.

“If [the delinquency is for] the year before [i.e. 2009], you’re looking at a whole lot more than that,” Ms. January said of penalties for late payments.

Appraisals for 2011 already have begun, and appraisers will continue field work until April, Ms. January said. Notices of value for 2011 should be delivered about May 1, 2011.

Property owners have 30 days after receiving a notice of value to prepare for an informal hearing if they wish to protest their appraised values. The five-member Appraisal Review Board hears all property value protests.

Property owners may request a field check, provide sales information, or discuss with appraisal district staff other factors that can affect property values, said deputy chief appraiser Melissa Gonzales, who noted that most value disputes are resolved without even appearing before the ARB.

“We actually do one-on-one with every protester prior to the hearing,” Ms. Gonzales said.

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