Tax agents call for new Travco Chief Appraiser

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Tax agents call for new Travco Chief Appraiser

The troubles in the Travis County Appraisal District continue.

Last week thousands of property tax protests were heard and decided in favor of taxpayers. That prompted TCAD review board officials to halt the hearings and call for do-overs. The process is more costly to the county than it should be. Tax Attorney Lorri Michel is calling foul and expensive legal action could be coming. "There may be the possibility of injunctive relief. If these hearings are reset for a re-do, I don't think that's what the tax code intended. I think it is a manipulation of the tax code."

Between lawsuits last year over tax protests and a record number of protests this year, elected officials like Commissioner Gerald Daugherty are worried. "I'm very concerned about it because it's the taxing authority and I'm not going to be happy if we have some extraordinary costs." 

Daugherty, the rest of Commissioners Court, Austin City Council and AISD compile the board for the Appraisal District and Michel says they're the oversight. "And primarily, the Board of Directors who is appointed by these taxing jurisdictions is responsible first and foremost for hiring and firing the Chief Appraiser. And I think at this point in time they need to be looking at whether they need to be revisiting that decision."

 

Travis County In-House Counsel Dustin L. Banks released this statement to Newsradio KLBJ:

June 10, 2019
RE: ARB Hearings Held on June 4, 2019
Six thousand forty-nine (6,049) hearings were scheduled for Tuesday, June 4,
2019. None of the hearings regarded individual property owner protests. All of the
hearings regarded protests filed by agents.
According to the ARB Chair, Tuesday’s hearings were intended exclusively
for protests in which the agent had not supplied the Authorization of Agent form
("AOA") mandated by the Tax Code § 1.111. See Exhibits 1 & 2.
TCAD was ready with data and staff to start hearings at 8:00 am on Tuesday,
June 4, 2019. The evidence and staff were organized according to the docket order
as scheduled by the ARB. See Exhibit 3, Samples of Docket Sheets.
The offices were opened before 8:00 am. The Chair of the ARB met the
agents in the agent waiting room regarding hearing dockets without TCAD staff
present. See Exhibit 4, Sample Agent Initialed Docket Sheets. The ARB Chair then
made significant changes to those hearing dockets. See Exhibit 5, Sample Docket
Sheets.
The Appraisal District is entitled to advance notice of the date, time, place
and subject matter of the hearings. See Exhibit 6, Tax Code § 41.46(b). No advance
notice was given to TCAD regarding the change to the previously set dockets.
Nevertheless, TCAD staff accommodated the changed dockets.
During the protest hearings that took place on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, some
agents testified that TCAD’s evidence of values was not ‘provided to them’ and
that TCAD’s evidence should be excluded. First, an appraisal district is prohibited
from providing confidential information to anyone except the person who provided
the information or the property owner or the owner’s authorized agent. See Exhibit
7, Tax Code § 22.27. Second, the Texas Property Tax Code currently requires an
appraisal district to inform the owner that the information is available for
inspection and copying. See Exhibit 8, Tax Code § 41.461. This information was
included in all Notices of Protest Hearings that were sent out in Travis County. See
Exhibit 9.
While the law only requires notice of the right to inspect, TCAD generally
delivers information to properly authorized agents through the agent portal in
advance of scheduled hearings when requested and as time and law permit.
A legal issue arose during hearings in which some agents alleged that an
email “proved” that TCAD would not make its evidence available until June 10,
2019. See Exhibit 10. The email in question regarded a request made under the
Texas Public Information Act (PIA). The Texas Government Code governs PIA
requests, not the Texas Property Tax Code and the response deadlines under a PIA
are significantly different. A careful reading of the email clearly shows that the
TCAD’s Records Manager would not be able to compile, manipulate, and
reproduce the data in the requested format to fulfill the PIA request until June
10, 2019. However, she also reminded the agent, “[t]he evidence packets [for the
ARB protest hearings] are being provided through the portal as they are
completed.”
It is TCAD’s understanding that the Travis ARB is meeting with its legal
counsel for guidance on these legal issues.

 

(Exhibits redacted due to protect private information. If you need to see these, please email newsroom @590klbj.com. and we will make reasonable efforts to accomodate.)

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