The Lamar County Appraisal District continues formal protests before its Appraisal Review Board this month amid the district’s attempts to bring local property values in line with the state’s Property Value Study and to stop the state revenue bleed by the county’s four school districts.
This year alone, the difference between what the Texas Comptroller’s Office and the Lamar County Appraisal District values county property cost Paris ISD roughly $2.7 million in state funding.
State law requires the Comptroller’s Office to determine the total taxable value of all property in each school district at least once every two years, according to information on the comptroller’s website. The education commissioner then uses the study results to ensure equitable distribution of funds so school districts have roughly the same number of dollars to spend per student, regardless of the school district’s property wealth.
In order for local property values to be used to distribute state education funds instead of Property Value Study values, a district must come within 95% of the state values. Districts are given a two-year grace period for appraisal districts to bring local values up to 95% before state values are used in funding calculations.
To close the property value gap to within 95% and stop the bleed, the appraisal district brought appraisal specialist Richard Petree with Western Valuation & Consulting on board earlier this year to assist with the reappraisal of all commercial property in the county. Commercial property, including hotels, apartment complexes and restaurants, remained the largest problem after the appraisal district increased residential values significantly during the past five or six years, according to earlier newspaper reports.
It is those reappraisals, followed on the heels of steady increases to property values in general, that brings 1,289 protests this year before a review board that heard 2,103 protests in 2020 and 1,106 in 2019 in addition to resolving 1,050 disputes in informal hearings this year, 974 in 2020 and 791 in 2019, according to information provided by Lamar County Tax Assessor Stephanie Lee.
In town early last week to assist with the protest hearings, Petree talked about his work in Lamar County.
“We used new standards set by a reliable appraisal standard company (Marshall & Swift) to train local appraisers to go out and reappraise all the commercial property in the county,” Petree said. “Some were very close to market value while others were as little as 40% of what they should be. So you can imagine how that is upsetting those folks.”
Without playing catch up, Petree said all Texas markets, including Lamar County, are showing an average annual increase in residential values of about 11%.
“We’re likely to have to move residential up again in 2022,” Petree said.
In the appraisal business for 40 years, the Abilene native served as chief appraiser in Taylor County from 1976 until his retirement in 2013. In 1988, he was presented the Earl Luna Award by the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts, recognizing him as the outstanding Chief Appraiser in Texas that year. He has authored several articles for the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts, and under his leadership, the appraisal district in Abilene received the Excellence in Assessment Administration Award from the International Association of Assessing Officers in 2013, the first appraisal district in Texas to receive the award.
Petree is a certified instructor for the State of Texas and teaches various courses in appraisals and ethics. As a consultant, he has served numerous appraisal districts in Texas, too many to mention. In addition, he is a licensed United Methodist minister and has served several small churches in West Texas for the past 27 years.