Council Approves Comprehensive Study of Property Tax Appraisal Process

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The Jackson St. Bungalow is the most popular Airbnb rental in San Antonio.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

City Council has commissioned a study on the Bexar County Appraisal District.

City Council approved a nearly $80,000 contract Thursday with a firm that will conduct a comprehensive study of the Bexar County Appraisal District, how it goes about setting values for properties, how it handles challenges to its appraisals, and how it compares to other appraisal districts around the state.

The study is aimed at finding best practices and could lead lower tax bills for residents if areas for improvement can be found in the local system.

“The saying goes that the only certainties in this world are death and taxes,” Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said in a press release. “But that doesn’t mean paying your taxes has to be painful. The study I’ve requested and that was approved today seeks to compare appraisal districts across the state to ensure San Antonio residents aren’t shouldering more of the burden than necessary.”

The district’s board decided not to help fund the study but will allow its staff to facilitate the study with the City and California-based Economic & Planning Systems Inc. (EPS).

Pelaez formally requested the study one year ago and a City Council committee directed City staff to develop a request for proposals (RFP) in June 2018. Only one firm responded and it wasn’t what the City was looking for, according to City documents, so it contacted several firms that would be qualified and received a proposal from EPS. The study is split into two phases, the second of which will go through a separate contract procurement process.

The first phase of the study will take an estimated three months, according to a spokeswoman in Pelaez’ office, and the second-phase timeline depends on the results of the first phase.

Property tax reform and affordable housing have been hot-button issues among Council members and the community for years, and the new affordable housing policy mentions the importance of appraisal protection measures. The Texas Legislature also is considering property tax changes.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who led the effort to establish the new housing policy, also announced Thursday that the City will be accelerating its housing displacement prevention strategies.

City staff also is looking into the economic impacts of providing a local homestead exemption.

26 thoughts on “Council Approves Comprehensive Study of Property Tax Appraisal Process

  1. Hell yes!! Councilman Palaez is absolutely right about this. We need to know more about how we compare to other cities. I love that he’s pushing for more data. While the rest of San Antonio is distracted with the fight over a chicken sandwich in the airport, this important taxation data gathering effort would go unnoticed—-but Rivard Report comes to the rescue. Thanks for your good report Ms. Dimmik. Thanks for keeping your eye on what impacts us all—-TAXES!

  2. It’s a lot more complicated than this article. There are two parts to your property tax bill; the valuation of your property and the tax rate of all the different taxing entities. Both can go up, but, to our good fortune, the rates pretty much stay the same. The BCAD might as well be Wells Fargo. Their valuation methods are flawed and they are bullies. Most people don’t have the time, expertise or money to fight these thugs so they get abused and it ‘s the middle class and poor that pays. The apartment developers that partner with a “city” non-profit known as the PFC pay no property tax at all and don’t provide affordable housing so why bother hiring a study for $80,000 when the city doesn’t have the courage to fix this glaring problem? I don’t know Manny but he’ll be patting himself on the back if he saves everyone $100/year on taxes while millions of dollars are being taken away from the city, county, school districts every year by developers partnering with the PFC. We can’t fix this until it’s exposed. Just saying.

    • You are absolutely correct! The SA Housing Trust and all that goes with it is so poorly mismanaged. The amount of tax abatements given to developers we are also subsidizing through ‘affordable’ housing policy is ridiculous. Everything is kept on the down low through city non-profits run by….city council, who along w the mayor use funds to do as they see fit…re a $300,000 study for an action plan on how to deal with displacement. Who is benefiting from this funding and who are they connected to?

    • “Bobby:”. This is a great post and spot on! I’m glad Mr. Palaez (My councilman, btw), took this initiative, but I’m confused as to why this research should cost the taxpayer $80k.

      And while we’re at it, I wish the Rivard Report would do an article on the number of churches that exist in San Antonio and the amount of tax revenue that’s lost to our city because of their tax-free status.

      While I realize that’s an issue that’s national in scope, I still think seeing the numbers in black/white would be eye-opening. I’ve often wondered how many of these “strip mall preachers” have Costco Cards in the name of their “churches”…the use of which allows them to forgo paying all sales taxes. Ever wonder how much John Hagee saves in taxes by putting everything his family owns in the name of Cornerstone Church?

  3. I live in one of the poorest parts of town and my property taxes increased to the point that I almost can’t afford to live here anymore. The difference between what my homeowners insurance, the city and on line listing services like Zillow have for my property vary as much as 40%. It feels like the Bexar County Appraisal District waves a wand, blows smoke and just taps 78237 AGAIN despite the fact that our crime rates have not gone down and you can’t see where you’re going at night the side streets are so poorly lit.

  4. BCAD is crushing San Antonio citizens and businesses. There should be a criminal investigation into how BCAD is forcing citizens to move out of their neighborhoods and forcing businesses to close because they cannot bear the constant enormous arbitrary increases in taxes by BCAD. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

  5. Nearly $80,000 dollars on a study that we already know the answers to! Property taxes have been too high for a long time now. Pelaez has had two years to work on this, and now commits to a weak, expensive study in time for election season. No thanks.

  6. Besides the corruption inside BCAD, there should be a study on all the non-assessed property in the County. The taxing authorities receiving portions of the property taxes have plenty of unnecessary property that should be sold to private enterprises and put on the assessed property pool. For example, the City of San Antonio should not be in the “business” of parking. All those structures and vacant lots owned by the City should be sold and put on the tax rolls. Another example is the new building by the ACC. What educational purpose does it serve? Why should it be built in the Pearl area when they already own plenty of land in the Palo Alto College or in the North East Lakeview College? This new property is not on the tax rolls, deprives money from the SAISD, and is an inefficient use of space. Two or three high rise towers (privately owned, and assessed) could have been built there, instead of an ego trip for the former chancellor and his ten trustees who voted not to drive to a less “glamorous” location. There is no accountability on how our property tax dollars are spent.
    I hope this study is the beginning of a more thorough property tax reform. I think the problem lies way beyond the appraisal process.
    The current scenario is unsustainable if you buy and hold property long term, whether it is a home or a commercial property.

    • I don’t disagree with you about the CoSA getting out of the “business” of parking, but wouldn’t we want to research whether or not the city makes more money renting out parking spots than they would in tax revenue?

      Ms. Dimmick: That too, might be a good idea for a future article.

  7. Good! We need help! Our property appraisal have gone up almost 200% in 3 years. It’s going to force us out.

  8. I’m really disappointed in my councilman, because this is a costly study for a problem we have already identified. Why not just vote on the issue already? This is a pattern for Councilman Peláez – all talk, little action. My friends, family, and I will be voting for other candidates in this election.

  9. [The study is split into two phases, the second of which will go through a separate contract procurement process.]
    I interpret this as another cost outside of the $80 K contract? @ Iris
    Well, received 2019 Bexar Co Notice of Appraisal, our structure value went up $15K and land $7K. Be cautious went you decide to relocate outside city limits- the neighborhood streets are narrow in ETJ/ County neighborhood plats being approved by County Commissioners Court.

  10. I posted a comment last night but don’t see it this morning. Maybe RR censors things it doesn’t like. I think China does that.

  11. Interesting… but for council to blame BCAD is nothing but diversionary..the power lies in the hands of City Council and the City Manager…they can decide to cut spending and tax rates no matter what value BCAD places on property. Council just uses BCAD as an excuse for their wanton use of taxpayer money.

  12. How about making all real estate sales prices public?
    Many are hidden from records through holding mechanisms. The properties then cannot have a proper appraisal.
    Also no more city subsidies for $300,000 condo units

  13. The commenter named John is correct: this is merely a tactic on the part of Councilman Pelaez to distract from what could be done. City Council has the power to act more comprehensively on this now. I find this delay insulting, and will be researching options for the upcoming election.

  14. The study will only compare what’s happening in San Antonio With the rest of the state. That is not ‘Comprehensive’ or helping to reduce taxes. This is a misleading title – and effort. It’s to stall, and make it look like they are doing something. All smoke and no fire.

    There is a tax revolt brewing among the people. These fake efforts will not do.

    Actual real Comprehensive tax reform is needed. The council has one shot at this – and they aren’t stepping up.

    Time for the people to demand more than a study

  15. Taxes are high because we fund so many entities, with school taxes taking the majority and city taxes relatively low in comparison. We have high taxes because and there is no state income tax, so we have property taxes, fees for just about every service imaginable, and a sales tax.
    I certainly agree that the BCAD needs when property taxes can drop significantly one year and rise the next, as has happened to me.
    Everyone should agree that all real estate sales should be public, but I recall that our former rep introduced such a proposed law every session and it never passed–maybe never cleared committee.
    I think that whatever the city may want to do, if it is too radical, the governor will come out against it and it will probably be outlawed.

  16. BCAD is required by the State of Texas to appraise within 90% of “market value.” We need to go back to a model of establishing taxable value based on the sales price of the property, not based on an overheated and highly speculative real estate market. It is this energy that is driving hard-working folks of modest means into the poor house. My anger lies with the state.
    Perhaps it is time for a state income tax. For most of us, this would be a better way. I would prefer to pay a tax on what I earn as opposed to what some taxing entity thinks my house is worth in order to adequately fund our schools. That would be infinitely fairer. Won’t happen because the 1% have convinced all the wannabes that this is bad for bidness.
    Do we really need a study given what we know and understand?
    We should ALL call BS on the system. On the State!

    • Tami,
      You don’t want a state income tax for several reasons. States like Texas and Florida are in growth mode because we don’t have a state income tax. Elected officials love money and will never give it back. You may want a state income tax but don’t for one minute they will drop the property tax to replace it. Money is the cocaine of elected officials and there are no treatment centers. We need to stop electing losers to office.

  17. We all know what the problem is. Maybe CC could ask citizens bc we can surely tell them…for free! Another study? Another commission? Another acronym group to think about, study, debate the property tax (or any other) problem and come up with ideas? We need a new, proactive mayor and council…and not waste time or money on studies of problems that have existed and gotten worse bc of city priorities and policies and their lack of remembering that they work for us, the tax paying citizen. They want more, more, more $$$ that they squander, enriches cronies and the city hall connected and produces no results, only programs that need more, more, more $$$ which BCAD is happy to provide.

  18. Quit voting for the incumbent in city and county elections.Next election and primary vote for the other guy or gal.They cant be any worse then what we have now.Local government must cut spending.this whole appraisal process is a scam and is illegal,taxing us on a value we havent profited from yet.

  19. Developers are the ones running this city. Our taxes are outrageous, even with our DV homestead. Developers receive bonds from city to build affordable living, but yet in Government Hill developers are selling their cheaply made condos for more than $200K. This is forcing most of the longtime Government Hill owners out.
    Where is the affordable living???? CITY + DEVELOPERS = CORRUPTION

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