TCAD Challenge Moves to Court
Mayor announces next stage of appraisal fight
By Michael King,
12:20PM, Mon. Aug. 24, 2015
The City of Austin is filing suit today against the Travis Central Appraisal District, commercial property owners, and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, challenging the property appraisal system as unconstitutional.
At a press conference Monday morning, Mayor Steve Adler called the suit "a tool that can be used constructively in the pursuit of fairness."
Joining the mayor in his announcement were Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, TCAD Board Chair Dick Lavine, and TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler. The mayor said Crigler's presence confirmed that the city and TCAD "do not see each other as adversaries in this action." He praised Crigler's work, and called the suit a collaborative effort in the interest of tax fairness. He noted that Crigler has advocated at the Legislature to allow more accurate information into the appraisal process – specifically additional property sales information expressing actual market value – and that the challenge lawsuit is another attempt to improve appraisal information.
"This challenge lawsuit," Adler said, "will allow us to fight for more tools to help the appraisal district do their job even better than current tools allow."
However, the mayor argued that the challenge (and the city's research underlying it) is not primarily an attempt to enable the reduction of appraisals on particular properties, or directly about residential affordability. "While the City must be focused on affordability," Adler said, "this lawsuit is not. Rather, this action is focused on fairness."
Crigler echoed the mayor's remarks of a "unified interest" among the parties, adding that TCAD's current appraisal process "meets and exceeds all statutory requirements." She said that the District is seeking additional information – "full sales disclosure" – as a more accurate means of determining actual market value, and thus a more fair and equitable property tax system.
The mayor emphasized the "unprecedented" nature of the city of Austin's challenge, noting that other local governments had previously contemplated similar action but had eventually retreated. He said the extraordinary cooperation of the parties in this case have made the challenge possible, and that he hopes to pursue the goal of a fairer process both in court and the next Legislature.
Crigler said she expects to certify Travis County property appraisals by noon today, and the mayor said he anticipates the suit will be formally filed this afternoon. A draft version of the initial pleading and requests for an injunction is available here.