The Tarrant Appraisal District’s (TAD) property value assessment following last year’s software mishap means two things – property values are going up by an average of 14 percent, but at the same time, property owners may wind up paying more taxes.
That’s why Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price is proposing to adjust next year’s budget and incorporate a lower property tax rate.
“It’s a good bad problem,” she said. “It means the property you’ve invested in has gone up in value. If you’re a property owner, that’s a real good thing. On the flipside, if the tax rates all stay the same, it means your tax bill is going to be higher.”
TAD transitioned into new software in 2014, causing a number of issues like late appraisal notices and lower appraised values in 2015. TAD Chief Appraiser Jeff Law told state lawmakers back in April that TAD has since corrected the software issues. However, TAD’s new numbers showed an increase in property values, which in turn could increase property taxes.
But instead of raising taxes, increased property values should naturally decrease the property tax rate, said Price, who once served as Tarrant County tax assessor.
“Rates and values are intricately connected,” she said. “They’re actually the inverse. If values fall, rates generally go up or stay stable. If values rise, then you’ve got a golden opportunity to reduce your rates.”
As far as how much the tax rate will go down, Price said it’s too early to tell since it will depend on how much funding each city department will ask for. The current property tax rate is 85.5 cents per $100 of valuation.
Ongoing projects, such as the sixth police division planned for north Fort Worth, will likely continue to receive the same funding – it’s the future projects not yet presented to the city that could take cuts, City Manager David Cooke said.
“We don’t anticipate making any reductions where we are,” he said. “Will we decide not to do some things that we could do? Certainly. We’ll make some of those choices, and we’ll be clear on what those tradeoffs are.”
The city’s priority in next year’s budget will be infrastructure projects, he said.
“Our goal is to deliver the same services with the reduced rate but also increase our spending on capital to continue the growth that we’ve had,” Price said.
TAD’s higher property values affect other cities in Tarrant County, too, not just Fort Worth. Price said she’s not aware of how other cities plan to tackle the property tax rate.
“None of them know for sure what they’re going to do yet,” she said.
Allan Saxe, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington, said he believes Fort Worth has taken a step ahead by disclosing its intentions to the public early.
Though about 57 percent of the city’s revenue comes from property taxes, according to Price, Saxe said business and population growth in Fort Worth should allow the city to lower the property tax rate without hurting the overall budget
The city council will vote on the 2017 budget around August or September. In the meantime, Price said property owners who feel they have an incorrect appraised value should protest their value by the May 31 deadline.
Appraisal methods aren’t foolproof, said Michael Flynn, president of Southland Property Tax Consultants, Inc.
“The mass appraisal method does not always accurately reflect all of the factors that impact a specific property’s market value,” he said. “If you believe your appraised value is excessive, you have a right to file an appeal.”
Saxe said Fort Worth property owners shouldn’t worry too much about paying more taxes.
“Every city should have the problems Fort Worth has, if you know what I mean,” Saxe said. “What a problem to have. Our property values are too high. What a deal.”