About 90,000 Bexar County property owners have just filed protests over tax appraisal increases.
The hearings have already started for people who want to make their case and bring those numbers down.
Timothy and Lydia Tucker bought a home near Woodlawn Lake 12 years ago and they had hoped to retire there, but the modest, rambling structure built in 1949 is now valued at more than $400,000.
The Tuckers said the sharp stick of the increase is putting the American dream of owning this home out of reach.
Timothy Tucker said “We're thinking we cannot retire in the home that was going to be our retirement home.”
Timothy said their tax bill will now be more than $10,000 per year, so the small reduction they won at an informal hearing Tuesday is not much help.
“We got $300 worth of relief today, which is no relief,” Timothy said.
Lydia Tucker said “I retired because of chronic health issues, otherwise, I'd still be working. This is such a burden. It's a matter of do we pay the property taxes or do we pay the doctors and medications. We can't do both.”
The Tuckers said when they looked at sales figures for homes in the neighborhood, they decided taking their case to the level of a formal hearing would be a waste of time.
“Based on square footage, age and condition, it seemed fair, so I thought I guess, we might as well try selling and buying something more modest,” Timothy said.
New homeowner Chris Shaw bought a home outside Loop 1604 earlier this year.
Shaw did not get as much of discount as he wanted at his informal hearing Tuesday, but he said he was happy with the process.
“This is the first time I've ever gone through this process,” Shaw said and he said he would do it again.
“I had absolutely no idea how to do this process so I filled out the form online, got an informal hearing letter in the mail and it told me to arrive on this date and time and I proceeded to try and win my case,” Shaw said.
Shaw called it a great learning experience.
Shaw said “Too many times we stand on the sidelines and accept whatever we receive in the mail as far as what our values are and I think that if there is a reason why there should be a change, I think that it's our responsibility as homeowners to address that change.”
Assistant Chief Appraiser Roy Sandoval said one of the biggest keys to success at an informal hearing is preparation.
Sandoval said anyone who asks for an evidence packet before their hearing will receive one. The packet contains all the information on comparable sales that appraisers have used to establish value.
“It also has the equity analysis where they can look and see where they are in relation to their neighbors are appraised at,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval said if a property has sustained any damage that would lower the value it is best to bring a contractor's estimate for repairs.
“Photos are great because it shows us the damage, but estimates also put a dollar amount to what it's going to cost you to fix that,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval said many property owners are satisfied after talking with appraisers, and most do not request a formal hearing.
“Of all the hearings we had last year, 80% were settled informally by our staff, so that's a pretty good number,” Sandoval said.
Everyone who filed a protest by the May 31 deadline should be receiving a hearing notice within the next ten days.
Sandoval said “The tax code says that 95 percent of the roll must be certified by July 25, so we're shooting for that. After that we will have hearings until early September.”
To learn more about the process, here is a link to the Bexar Appraisal District website.