I hope everyone is looking forward to the start of spring and all the excitement it brings. All across the state we’re seeing the beauty of our native Texas wildflowers and bluebonnets paint the roadsides and pastures, a sure sign that spring has arrived.
In the Texas Legislature, this time of year also means that the bill filing deadline, March 10th, has come and gone. As you recall, this means that we are past the 60th day of session and bills are beginning to make their way through the legislative process. Constitutionally, Texas could only take up legislation that was specifically named on the Governor’s list of emergency items up until this point. Now, any and all legislation is free to be carefully considered and possibly changed, voted on favorably, or killed. With 7,865 bills filed this session, things will begin moving quickly from now until the end of May when the 140th day of the session signals the end of the 88th Regular Session.
As we are all aware, in recent years Texas has seen rapidly rising appraisals on our properties, which is untenable for many residents and small business owners. Every April, I hear from many concerned constituents about their property appraisals, and I am passionate about appraisal reform. That is why the Texas House has made this issue a top priority this session by filing House Bill 2, the Property Tax Relief Act, and House Joint Resolution 1 to provide this tax relief and put additional safeguards in place to combat rising property values. House Bill 2, which I am a co-author of, provides an additional $12 billion in tax relief by further compressing school district tax rates by $0.15. Coupled with our base budget, House Bill 1, this will provide over $17 billion in total property tax relief, the largest reduction in state history, by reducing school property taxes by 28%. House Bill 2 also reduces the number of school districts subject to recapture, reducing total recapture payments by $4.5 billion for the 2024-25 biennium. Our goal is to not only provide this immediate tax relief to all property owners but also to protect both homeowners and businesses from that much-too-often shock of rising property values. HB 2 and HJR 1 additionally lower the appraisal limit to 5% for all properties in Texas. This not only cuts in half the current 10% appraisal cap for homestead owners but extends the cap to all properties. Notably, HB 2 also includes a 5% cap on all commercial property which has had no appraisal cap in the past. This will help continue to promote economic growth and provide stability and predictability for all property owners. HB 2 would also require tax assessors to provide escrow accounts at the request of property owners to better help them plan and save for their property tax bill. Lastly, HJR 1 will allow voters to decide on whether or not to enact the appraisal cap measures in HB 2 as well as ensure any future property tax relief appropriations can be sent to taxpayers without being subject to the spending limit. This is a great piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at addressing the appraisal side of your tax bill and I look forward to passing it in the Texas House.
As I do every year, my office personally works on many other pieces of appraisal reform legislation including the election of chief appraisers, appraisal district boards of directors, and appraisal review boards. On March 13th, I presented House Bill 1228 in the House Ways and Means Committee. It will serve as another tool in a property owner’s toolkit when protesting a property appraisal. HB 1228 would allow an individual to access the information that the appraisal district uses to appraise property before scheduling a protest hearing. This will help ensure that property appraisals are being fairly valued and provide a property owner with all the necessary information to understand how a district came to a certain value and how the property owner can argue against the value if they disagree. Under current
law, once a property owner files the protest in the appropriate time frame, some occasionally may be able to reconcile the dispute at an informal hearing. In other cases, if you are not able to have an informal hearing or if you are unable to reach a solution at an informal hearing, you may take your case to the appraisal review board if you have filed your protest by the appropriate deadline. Before this formal hearing at the ARB, the appraisal district must mail the property owner a statement notifying them that they can inspect and obtain copies of data, schedules, formulas and other information the appraisal district plans to use at the hearing. They must do this at least 14 days before the formal hearing. This information is not automatically provided. There is simply a statement that the information is available upon request. This legislation simply gives a property owner the ability to access this information without scheduling a protest. I look forward to continuing our fight for property tax relief by taking these steps on the appraisal side of the equation.
As always, it is an honor to serve our community here at the state capitol. May God bless you, your family, and the great state of Texas!
-State Representative Will Metcalf, House District 16