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Tax protest study stirs Lubbock Appraisal District

By Kenric Ward

Watchdog.org

Property owners protesting appraised values in Lubbock County are more likely to succeed when they represent themselves, according to an in-house analysis obtained by Watchdog.org.

Being represented by an agent doesn’t help, and can hurt, according to Justin Carter, a former staffer and statistician at the Lubbock County Appraisal District.

“Taxpayers are far more likely to receive a break, and a larger break, if they represent themselves,” he concluded in the internal report obtained by Watchdog through a third party.

Timing of hearings can be crucial, too. Among Carter’s detailed findings:

  • Appraisal protests lose biggest on Fridays, just before and after lunch. They fare best on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Property owners whose cases are scheduled toward the end of the Appraisal Review Board’s calendar win fewer reductions.

“ARB magnanimity toward taxpayers declines as the week progresses,” Carter said.

Carter resigned from LCAD after submitting his report, which was ordered by Chief Appraiser Tim Radloff.

“I was tired of being berated by angry taxpayers,” Carter said of his two-year stint at the district.

Radloff said he directed Carter to study values of student housing and apartment properties in Lubbock, home of Texas Tech University.

“It was limited in scope. He extended it without our approval,” Radloff told Watchdog.

But Radloff did make one change in light of Carter’s findings on Friday appraisal hearings. “I made sure that nothing of high [commercial] value was scheduled on a Friday,” he said.

“I bent over backward. Did I get every one? Probably not,” he noted.

Appraisal Review Boards are intended to be independent of appraiser’s offices, which set local property values. But most ARBs, including Lubbock’s, have no staff and rely on the appraisers’ personnel for scheduling.

Radloff said he couldn’t speak to the accuracy of Carter’s report, adding, “I’m not going to look deeper into the issues he raised.”

Mike Amezquita, chief appraiser for the Bexar County Appraisal District in San Antonio, questioned the timing assertion in the Lubbock study.

“Agents and owners can reschedule their hearings at will, and regularly do so. I find the time of day and day of week portion of the study just silly,” he said.

Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at kward@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward.