June 23, 2020
In the Tarrant County Appraisal District (TAD), there has been a sharp rise in protests over the last few years. Because of that, the board of directors decided to audit the protest numbers and the alleged disparity of Tarrant County property values. On Friday, June 5th, the motion to establish a scope to use for the audit passed by a narrow 3-2 vote. The motion was presented to the board by Rich DeOtte, who has been a board member since January.
Information for the motion was gathered about the number of protests in the county when compared to other counties throughout the state. The numbers showed that Tarrant County’s protests increased by nearly 267 percent from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, there were more than 208,000 protests. The next largest increase was Dallas County, which saw protests go up nearly 50 percent during that same time frame. While it’s common to see protests rise when tax rates go up, the large discrepancy between Tarrant County property taxes and those of its neighbors is worth noting.
The audit was suggested by DeOtte because he was curious as to why the protests have spiked so much over recent years. Other members of the board of directors are also concerned because the level of protests could indicate that there are significant problems with the property tax structure in the county. One of the biggest worries is that the appraisal software the county is using could be part of the problem. The software — and problems with it — were mentioned in a recent audit, and it’s not clear if anything has been done to correct the issue.
The software was shown to be problematic back in late 2016, when an independent verification audit was conducted. That audit also showed that there were problems for up to two years after the software started being used, and those problems were still ongoing. The failure to correct problems with the software could mean that property owners in Tarrant County have been charged much more in taxes than they should have due to unfair appraisals of the value of their property. To have correct and lasting tax reform, the appraisal issues have to be fixed properly and the software must work and be used correctly, as well.
A large concern is the discrepancy between what’s seen in Tarrant County and what’s seen in other counties that are similar in size. Until the problems are explored and brought to light, there’s no way to be sure what’s really wrong or how to correct it. Many people who protest their appraised value have their issues resolved without needing a hearing, but there are still many appraisals in the current system that’s in place for filing a protest. Because it appears unlikely that Tarrant County simply has a much higher number of people who want to complain about the cost of their property tax, it’s important to have an investigation of the real issues at the heart of the property tax concerns throughout that county.