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Austin Appraisal Lawsuit Dismissed

by Kevin Kirkpatrick, San Antonio, December 2015

 

Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak has dismissed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed by the City of Austin who asked the Court to order reappraisals for commercial property and vacant land. The suit also sought to declare certain portions of the Texas tax code unconstitutional.

 

Judge Sulak said the city lacked the legal authority to challenge the constitutionality of the state's property tax system. The dismissal of the lawsuit means 2015 property tax appraisals will stand and there will be no reappraisal.

 

What the Lawsuit Charged

 

Austin sued the Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD) and owners of commercial and vacant properties in an attempt to order a reappraisal for 2015.

 

Even though commercial property values in Travis County were up an average 35% for 2015, the city felt that these properties were still grossly undervalued.

 

The lawsuit challenged the "equal and uniform" provisions in state law that allow property owners to win value reductions by proving that their appraisal exceeds the median value of comparable properties. It also asked for “mandatory sales price disclosure” for real estate transactions.

 

Legislation Expected

 

Lawmakers are pledging to enact legislation in 2016 to block cities from filing similar lawsuits in the future.

 

State Senator Paul Bettencourt is one legislator who has been very critical of the lawsuit. "There's never been a case like this in Texas history, and I tell you, I will do whatever I can to plug this hole," he said.