Governor Abbott: Texas will not suspend property appraisals this tax year despite pandemic

City, county leaders asked Governor in March to suspend appraisal district requirements

SAN ANTONIO – During an appearance on the KSAT 12 News at Noon on Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he has no plans to suspend property appraisals this year and instead put the pressure to provide property tax relief back on local taxing entities.

“We are not going to make any type of law modifying what a person’s home value is worth. Instead, what is required is the local taxing entities are going to be required to have best practices to reduce their property tax rate so that it will not be punishing to these property owners,” said Abbott.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, property values are expected to rise 7%-8% over last year in Bexar County, according to county records obtained by KSAT 12.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott talks to KSAT 12 News about the state's COVID-19 response

In a March 20 letter signed by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other county and city leaders, they asked Abbott to consider suspending the requirement that appraisal districts re-appraise properties this tax year. In other words, freezing last year’s appraisal.

“In this evolving health crisis, we as government leaders should be looking for ways to appropriately mitigate the severe economic impacts to every segment of our society,” the letter stated.

County officials said as recently as Monday they had not received a response from the Governor or his office.

“Taxpayers need help today. We are going through the pandemic today. We need help now, not next year,” said San Antonio homeowner David Biasiolli.

Online appraisal records show the market value of Biasiolli’s Northwest Side home increased nearly $30,000 from last year to this year.

A 10 percent state cap on assessed value kept it from rising that full amount.

Still, according to Biasiolli, the increase is a tough pill to swallow during an already months-long health crisis.

“We’re looking at ‘God, how can we cut and do without?’ They’re blaming the state, the state is blaming them,” said Biasiolli, referring to local officials.

Appraisals for this year are expected to be sent to homeowners over the next few weeks. Payments would be due at the end of January 2021.

Concerns about property tax protests

Wolff on Tuesday afternoon said the Governor’s response will put more people at risk for exposure to COVID-19 in the form of in-person protests at county appraisal district offices.

“I’m very disappointed in the Governor’s reaction to this,” said Wolff during a phone call with KSAT 12.

KSAT 12 was provided a letter written by Bexar County’s Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita in which he stated that an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed that a disaster exemption would not apply to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a recent change in state law.

The letter stated:

In light of all of these developments, it has become obvious that we are to move forward with the appraisal and protest process. We are mailing notices of appraised values to property tax agents first beginning April 20 and will send notices to property owners as soon as it is responsible to do so. The protest deadline is May 15 OR 30 days after the notice is mailed, whichever is later. The vast majority of property owners will have deadlines after May 15 this year. We are likely to be precluded from having face-to-face meetings with the public in light of gathering restrictions and social distancing measures that are in place. We are encouraging the public to protest online or mail their information to us for processing. This process will be less efficient than in the past but we are committed to get to every single protest no matter how long it takes. This being the case, we are still targeting July 25 as our certification date, but as we have communicated to you already, it will prove difficult to meet the statutory requirements for certification by July 25. If we are unable to attain certification by July 25, we will be able to provide you with a certified estimate as authorized under 26.01(a-1) by that time.

Reached by phone Monday, Amezquita said in-person protests are a concern because some members of the Appraisal Review Board, the body that hears and resolves appraisal disputes, are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 in large part due to their age or a pre-existing medical condition.

Find more coronavirus coverage from KSAT here.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.