Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
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.