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This month, Henderson County Appraisal District has sent out notices informing property owners of taxable value. Many are seeing increases on their appraised values and are wondering why their property value has risen at a time when the economy is being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The questions have prompted Fourth District State Representative Keith Bell, to answer some of the concerns his constituents in Henderson and Kaufman Counties have posed about their appraisals this tax season.

" I have visited with Glen Hager, Comp-troller, personally, his staff and the Governor’s office concerning this issue," Bell wrote. "Appraised values by statute, are based on their market values on January 1, 2020. There-fore, any reduction of value due to the COVID-19 outbreak will not be reflected until 2021’s values. The Comptroller was clear during our discussion, he did not have the authority to suspend the statues but understood my concerns."

Bell said he sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott on March 18, requesting the suspending of certain requirements of county appraisal districts during the COVID-19 crisis including the 2020 reappraisal of property values in an effort to provide some relief to his constituents.

On March 30, Bell had a conference call with the Governor’s Tax Policy Expert and the Legisla-tive Affairs Team regarding the letter.

"The written requests and my personal concern with COVID-19 exposure to taxpayers and ARB members was discussed and duly noted," Bell said. "I was advised, the Governor would not be suspending this requirement as well as, the Comptroller had not requested suspension of Section 403.302 or Section 5.102. Therefore, it was not a consideration at this time. In addition, I inquired about my requested delays. As for notices, I was told these are due April 1 by statute but the CADs already have latitude to delay to a date “as soon thereafter as practicable.” In the case of KCCAD these were mailed on April 13th and HCCAD May 15st respectively."

Bell said Senate Bill 2, passed in the 86th Legislative Session, now allows the Chief Apprais-er to provide an estimated value to taxing jurisdictions by July 25, 2020. Under SB2, values are not required to be “Certified” until the tax statement is mailed. As for protest, tax payers have 30 days from the date their tax notice is mailed to request an Appraisal Review Board Protest and Hearing.

"Based on my discussions with both the Comptroller and Gover-nor’s office, I visited with both the Kaufman and Henderson County Chief Appraisers in House District 4," Bell said. "As these are local decisions, I negotiated the following for my constituents in an effort to allow them to exercise their taxpayer rights to an ARB Hearing without any additional risk to themselves or ARB members from COVID-19:

1. A taxpayer can file a protest by phone, fax or email and request a formal or informal Hearing.

2. An ARB Hearing can be completed by phone, teleconference or in person later in the year.

3. Evidence can be sent to the CAD via mail, fax or email and will not require a Notary to attest.

4. Your evidence can now be used in a teleconference ARB Hearing.

Bell said taxpayers need to understand their appraised taxable value is only part of your property tax bill calculation, the other half is the tax rates. School District M&O tax rates will be compressed by The State of Texas (Texas Education Agency) for revenue increases over 2.5% per House Bill 3, also passed in the 86th Legislative Session.

Bell said he hopes that the remainder of local taxing entities such as School Districts (I&S Rates), Cities, Counties and other taxing districts take this into account as they set their new tax rates this summer.

"I fully understand the frustration of our taxpayers, as my home value in Kaufman County increased almost 100%," Bell said "Just as I did last year, I will protest my value again and would recommend to anyone who does not feel their appraised value reflects the true market value of their property to expediently file a protest. In an effort to be both transparent and informative, I posted the ARB information on my Facebook page on Monday April 13, 2020."

Henderson County Chief Appraiser Bill Jackson explained in April that although the COVID-19 was having a big effect on the county economy and perhaps property values, that won't be reflected on this year's statements.

"According to the Comptrollers Property Tax Assistance Division’s, 2019 Property Value Study, the values in Henderson County are 8% to 15% too low depending on the location of the property," Jackson reported. "The Texas Property Tax Code requires all property tax appraisals to be as of January 1 and the Chief Appraiser has no discretion regarding this directive.

Henderson County Appraisal District has notified property owners for health and safety concerns, the District has suspended all in-person appeals for 2020.

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